There stood a girl. A girl’s shadow.
The shadow of a girl stood below the window. There in the moon’s faint light, a silver glow illuminating her sharp, pale features. A pair of blood red eyes glared in an odd sort of fury at the elaborate wooden framing. “Goodness,” the girl said aloud, harsh voice grating on thin steel, eyes narrowing a suspicion. “This one is clever.” And indeed she was, for Eve, the she eight-year old girl of 13 Rowan Road, had grown accustomed to the strange figures, and had therefore decided to douse her window panes in what she called holy water, and engraved strange symbols in order to ward of her many fears. Yet still she was fearful of what she saw, yet still she shivered and screamed in the algid nights. She knew precisely where she stood in the brutal, cruel game of predator and prey, though without knowledge of the predator’s identity. She was the prey.
Oakwood manor lay quietly, a silent enemy in the battle of light and dark. Clearly, it was the perfect location for the Dawning Night, a nearby school’s annual celebration on the last day of October. With its imposing, looming structure, and its dark, haunting windows which chilled the bones of all who saw into their treacherous souls, the girls of the school’s planning committee were most pleased with their find. Though Eve Fare was not so sure, as she stood barely within the foreboding boundaries of Ashwood’s shadowed grounds.
Darkness fell upon her, clouds rumbling overhead like the ever starved stomach of fear, obscuring the moon with what Eve thought to be a warning. But to what? She wondered. Perhaps it was simply the paranoia which had built up relentlessly inside of her, a tidal wave of fear. “No, Eve,” she told herself, as the thought of her eath drifted casually across her troubled mind. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’m not going to die. It’s just a little fun on Halloween. That’s all.”
Yet still she was afraid, and her feelings were mixed, but before she could turn back, away from what she imagined to be an abyss of eternal doom, and leave with a relieving sense of security, her friend, Mia, appeared beside her. “You ready?” she asked, bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet as she stared at her work.
“Yeah, sure,” Eve replied nervously. “Those fake bats are ace, by the way.” Tentatively, she smiled with a faint laugh, and, though she was certain she would later regret her action, she tucked a stray lock of red hair behind her ear and followed Mia into the caliginous, threatening grounds of Ashwood Manor.
Everywhere Scarlett went, people were dressed in the best black finery, as though they were in attendance at a queen’s funeral. As if they knew what a true queen was like. Her queen.
Never would she have imagined a queen to have a funeral. Surely, a queen could never die. But, much to her distaste, she found she was incorrect. Bitterness spread across her like a sour wave, and Scarlett took a step forward, the heels of her leather boots crunching on the gravel and the fallen leaves.
A girl raced in front of her, crossing the foreboding path of twisted joy. Her features were doll-like, blue eyes sparkling under the faintest moonlit sky. “Move it,” Scarlett growled at the girl, who glared at her with such a passion she seemed to be demented.
“Excuse me,” the girl said, with a voice composed of the strongest contempt for the newcomer, which was plain to see as she added furiously, “but I am Mia Greene, head of the school’s planning committee. I organized this event; I could get you kicked out. I don’t even think I’ve seen you at school before. Where’d you come from?”
“Oh, darling, I highly doubt that,” Scarlett laughed daintily, her voice a wind chime in the breeze. But it could turn just as easily into the metal from which they were forged. “Now, must find my boyfriend. He is most impatient, you see, and it simply would not do to keep him waiting. Unless, of course, you would like to be most brutally harmed.” The shock on Mia’s face made Scarlett smile in a wicked fashion, as though sharing a cruel inside joke with the ‘doll’, though Mia didn’t understand it.
“A-are you … Threatening me?” she asked, terrified, trying to sound dignified.
Scarlett didn’t answer, and instead left the girl alone and scared in the darkness. “She was a nuisance,” Scarlett muttered in annoyance. Striding superiorly through the oak double doors, something caught Scarlett’s eye.
It was a small, tear-shaped ruby pendant, made from what ought to be the finest example of natural beauty. Beautiful, exquisite, it looked almost as delicious as the blood as its fine, rare source.
Scarlett’s gleaming eyes scoured the room, until they found their subject. A girl’s face. Scarlett knew her face. Scarlett knew her name. It was Eve. Eve Fare.
Eve herself felt rather lost in this land of fancy dress costumes; witches, and vampires, and trolls. Mia had left her, and a strange girl stared at her without the merest of blinks, motioning with a finger for Eve to follow her as she stepped outside into the finest sliver of moonlight.
“Are you okay?” Scarlet asked warmly, tring to sound caring, like a regular human.
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. It’s just that my friend’s gone off somewhere. Probably off to do some kind of planning committee thing. Do you know where she is?”
Scarlet nearly laughed out loud. Eve really was making it far too easy for her to coax her into the false sense of security. She really was incredibly naïve. Her eyes scoured the garden fearfully, and her heart skipped a beat s her gaze landed on the stone. The engraving was familiar. Too familiar.
“It’s okay, Eve,” Scarlet whispered, almost mockingly, eyes as icy and menacing as the skin in which they were captured. “Just come with me.”
Eve couldn’t think. She couldn’t. Her mind had been wiped blank by fear.
The cave’s tenebrosity was foreign to Eve’s eyes, almost permanently in sunlight, its fear-striking shadows causing a complete solar eclipse. “What’s happening?” she asked, in a fit of terror which clawed its way to her heart. “Where am I?” A deafening ring screamed in her ears like a super-charged fire alarm. At first, she thought she had simply hit her head, and awoken in the night with a blank memory. Then she saw the shining knife in Scarlet’s hand. It was directly over her heart. The fear was too fierce to be a dream, even a nightmare. It must have been real.
“Are you a complete raving idiot?” she roared. “A psychopath?” She clenched her fists in preparation to fight Scarlet. It was desperate at finding something which made even the tiniest sense. “Sociopath? What in God’s name even are you?”
Scarlet’s eyes flashed with a maniacal gleam, her hair scarcely covering the evil intentions behind her soul’s window. Her mind was wild, just as she always knew it had been. So many times she had thought of herself, this unshakable fear she all too often plastered on her victims’ panicked faces. “I think you know. I think you’ve always known.”
Something like recognition broke the tension in the air – or perhaps only increased it with Eve’s fear – a knife slicing neatly through a chocolate cake, gleaming with a beautiful dark sheen. At that moment, in the cold stillness of Death’s essence, a heart-wrenching scream tore through the air. Scarlet smiled manically, a malicious glint in her deadened eyes.
Eve had heard many wild tales of what lay beneath the cold stones of graveyards, but never had she felt so unprepared. Swarms of people (though Eve was certain they were not) advanced upon her, glowing ruby eyes looking her up and down hungrily, as though she was the dessert after a poor main course.
“Oh, she does look delicious, Scar,” a particularly pale-looking woman said, running a deep red tongue over a glistening white triangle edged into her gums. “I’ll look forward to the jam.”
Eve gulped. It seemed almost inevitable that her earlier predictions were correct, though she had piled endlessly hope upon hope that they were not. Scarlet took a fearful, unwilling Eve by the arm, leading her to a deep, old oak door practically buried in lush green ivy which crawled steadily over the handle, reaching out to grab her with its cruel touch, as though she were the centrepiece at a great party.
“Do you know what this is?” Scarlet snarled, lip curving upwards in a sinisterly murderous fashion. “This is what we like to call the Door of Hunger. Though, of course, you may call it the Door of Despair. Or Death. Whichever you prefer. You’ll be dying soon, anyway, if luck is on our side.”
Before Eve could even think of how to react to the threat, a voice like knifes on tables whispered in its grating voice, “Time’s up,” and Scarlet lunged forwards.
Eve braced herself for the attack, fear coursing furiously through her thin veins like an electric current, hairs on the back of her neck prickling with such energy she felt she would never again feel them lie flat.
But the darkness never came. Well, it did, but not in the way Eve predicted.
“Stop.” Tamere’s voice rang out across the room like a war siren, its urgency overwhelming, passing whispers through fast-moving hands. “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!” Eve turned to the voice’s source, heart. Another mouth to feed on her, perhaps? Someone to save her from the clutches of death? A saint? Or a sinner? “And, please, dim thise lights, it is simply atrocious.” Her scrutinising gaze scoured the room, softening as the lights – or lack thereof – cast looming, leering shadows over the Romanian Court.
Time seemed to slow down as Eve whispered the words, “Who’s she?” into the silence, earning many cruel glares sent her way.
“Who am I, you ask? Mortals like you have no need for this information, but as you wish.” Scarlet looked at the odd woman with something reminiscent of reverence, as though she was the candle great adventurers sought out in the darkness. The silence between Tamere’s words was almost deafening, as though each was to be handled with extreme caution, used only when need called greatly for it. “I am the only one with power over these dear, dear friends of mine. If you wish to live a while longer, I recommend extreme courtesy. Ladies, do remind her not to tempt Soarta. Ignorance is not always bliss.”
Murmurs rippled around Eve like a wandering soul, lost, almost silent as the wind captured them in unearthly binds. “You Majesty,” Scarlet began, a cold glint in her steely eyes, “should we take her to the Blood Ruins, or the Souls?”
“Souls. She is worth a lot of memories.”
The Soul Ruin was a cold, wasted place, as damp and derelict as if it had not been seen since its ancient building. Eve hoped it was the case; maybe these strange people wouldn’t like what they did in here.
A thin piece of dark fabric covered a strange device, an onyx inlaid into the odd sort of metallic material. Its fang-like pattern stabbed Eve’s mind repeatedly, injection fear’s paralyzing poison; the dawning sensation of certain death.
Eve tried desperately to fight it, cling onto any weak thread of hope, but the vampires – for Eve had now reached the conclusion that was what they were – had strength never imagined by Eve, or any other human, and the world turned black with death’s hands, adorned with glinting, bejewelled nails which tore mercilessly at her skin. An indistinguishable voice grated on the steel plate she was forced onto, a reminder of Eve’s cruel fate.
The sound was like the call of death that never came.
But as the wind howled above her and the pain became truly unbearable, it began to ebb, numb, and the world and its colours return with full glory. Eve screamed. She didn’t know why. But she screamed. There was only one thing worse than death, she though, and it was not something stripping away her life, taking her blood. It was something stripping away her soul.
Scintillating, glinting fangs cut into her, wounding the very thing designed to aid the closure. “I have already eaten. But not everybody else has.”
Eve felt something land in her eye, irritating and vexatious. “Quiet!” Scarlet snapped, mouth inching ever closer to Eve’s bare neck as gooseflesh rose slowly up it.
A scream echoed of the wall behind her, and she shivered with a pained face, reaching out to find a small fragment of warmth. She was met only by frost. “Don’t even try. The choice has been made already.”
Eve knew what choice they spoke of, but yet still the concept was incredibly confusing. As many of her friends would note, there was no – or at least, very little – difference between the two options she had allegedly been given: Her life, or her soul. Surely, there could be no difference.
But these creatures had roamed the land before even the time of true human civilisations. They were right, Eve thought. They knew everything, and she knew nothing in this land.
The word was on the brink of her tongue, but a memory struck her like a bolt of lightning, and her heart dropped.
Pain. Hot, red, fiery pain.
Darkness. Cold, cruel, damp darkness.
Screams. Whispers, shrieks, howling screams.
She knew of their source, that which had caused her so much moral anguish. “I need a moment.” Eve had left before she’d spoken.
She ran, pulse racing, hoping with every ounce of her body to find an escape from the cruel labyrinth.
“Come here, mireoa!” screeched Scarlet, as the other vampires circled their target in the narrowing darkness. “May your pain never end!”
A red-hot poker grazed Eve’s arm, a blazing inferno of pain. She shrieked violently as more and more cold figures crowded her, claustrophobia pouring down on her. A spectral light flickered above her head, and Eve found herself to have been wrong all those years ago when she doused her room in the most stereotypical of ancient wards. Death to the subconscious mind is better than to the awakened.
“I wish I’d brought some garlic bread with me.” Her eyelids fluttered lightly as she attempted to drift into a dream, hopefully one containing fluffy unicorns and pink pandas. The darkness, she thought, was nothing more than a catalyst. Pain and obliviousness, those were what truly created her fears.
She could not bring herself to think of what was happening to her, only that, if she did not soon regain her self-control, it would most likely end in death. Her death.
“Perhaps you would like to know,” Scarlet said with a wicked smile, “we have a sort of ... family tradition, as you might say.”
“What’s that?” Eve asked, trying to sound confident, though there was a fluctuation in her voice. She sounded as though she was about to cry. Perhaps she wanted to die, Scarlet thought. It would certainly make this a lot quicker. Fresh blood was no good when the heart was going as fast as hers.
“No one can escape.”
Screams of terror echoed off the walls, ricocheted endlessly around the stone box, fell shamelessly from the great manor’s ancient eaves. A stone arch began to form, rising from the ashen grass, a warning to all its visitors.One girl shivered as she glided elegantly over it, staring back with empty eyes.
An inscriotion on it read: Those who do not embrace their fate, have no fate at all. Those who do not embrace their love, have no herat at all. Those who fear for the end of life, have never been held by fear.
“End it,” she whispered to the gleaming hunger which ensnared her in its web of lies. “If this is what it feels like, I don’t want to have it! End it!”
Such a beautiful sight met her eyes, it was strenuous to imagine any other luxury, hard to imagine anyone could ever want anything else. “Then I shall. This shall be your last.”
Below the wet and dewy emeralds of the night, words were chanted to an eerie melody of silence.
“Blood in the evening, such a beautiful sight.
“But one must pay heed to its scarlet might.
“Red sky in the morning,
“A shepherd’s warning.”
Dawn broke over the hills, and the sky was streaked with crimson light.