There is a girl. Just a girl, a small, innocent girl. She knows precisely where she stands in the brutal, game of predator and prey, though without knowledge of the predator’s identity. She is the prey.
Oakwood Manor lies quietly, a silent enemy in the battle of light and dark. Clearly, it is the perfect location for a birthday party, with its imposing, looming structure, and its dark, haunting windows, which chill the bones of all who find the courage in themselves to peer into their treacherous souls, though Mrs Elaine Fare thought it perfect for her daughter’s gothic personality, at least when she booked the venue, though now she is not quite so sure. Humans are so pathetic. Though Eve Fare does not seem so sure, as she stands barely within the foreboding boundaries of Ashwood’s shadowed grounds.
Darkness falls upon her, falls upon me, upon every being in the vicinity, 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 wonders in the darkest corners of her mind, as I finally reach through, the ban's pressing weight lifted off of my shoulders. Perhaps it is simply the paranoia which has built up relentlessly inside of her, a tidal wave of fear. “No, Eve,” she tells herself in a voice like death, as the thought of such a thing drifts 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 is clearly afraid, and her feelings are mixed, but before she can turn back, away from what she imagines to be an abyss of eternal doom, and leave with a relieving sense of security, her friend, Mia, appears beside her. “You ready?” she asks, bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet as she stares at her so- called masterpiece.
“Yeah, sure,” Eve replies nervously. “Those fake bats are ace, by the way.” Tentatively, she smiles with a faint laugh, and, though I am certain she shall later severely regret her action, she tucks a stray lock of red hair behind her ear and follows Mia into the caliginous, threatening grounds of Ashwood Manor.
Everywhere I go, people are dressed in the best Human finery; purple silk tops, black silk skater skirts, as though they are in attendance at a queen's coronation - I think they call theirs Elizabeth. As if they know what a true queen is like, or a Leveller, for that matter. Puny Humans.
Never would I have imagined a queen to have a coronation, if they are truly like the Levellers, though they are, of course less important. Surely, a queen must always be with a crown upon her head, living forever in infinity. But, much to my distaste, I appear to be incorrect. Bitterness spreading across me like a sour wave, I take a step forward, the heels of my new leather boots crunching on the gravel and the fallen leaves.
A girl races in front of my, crossing the foreboding path of twisted joy. Her features are doll-like, though not quite as doll-like as Aareia, blue eyes sparkling under the faintest moonlit sky. “Move it,” I growl ethereally at the girl, who glared at me with such a passion she appears to be demented.
“Excuse me,” the girl says, with a voice composed of the strongest contempt for me, which is plain to see as she adds furiously, “but I am Mia Greene, Eve Fare's best friend in the whole wide world. I organized this birthday party for her; I could get you kicked out. I don’t even think I’ve seen you in our crowd before, popular b***h. Where’d you come from?”
“Oh, darling, I highly doubt that you could do anything to hurt me.” I begin laugh daintily, her voice a wind chime in the breeze. But it can turn just as easily into the metal from which they were forged. “Now, I must find my boyfriend." Han g on, what am I saying? This will not work now, not if she thinks I've got a boyfriend, and knows - even if it is just vaguely - who I am. "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 the girl's face make me smile in a wicked fashion, as though sharing a cruel inside joke with the ‘doll’, though she does not understand it whatsoever.
“A-are you … Threatening me?” she asks in terror, trying to sound dignified.
I do not bother to answer her foolish question, and instead leave the girl alone and scared in the darkness. “She was a nuisance,” I mutter in annoyance. Striding superiorly through the oak double doors, something catches my critical, beautiful eye.
It is a small, tear-shaped ruby pendant, made from what ought to be the finest example of natural beauty. Beautiful, exquisite, it looks almost as beautiful as the raging inferno at its fine, rare source.
My gleaming red eyes scour the room, until they find their subject. A girl’s face. I know her face. I know her name. It is Eve. Eve Fare.
Eve herself feels rather lost in this land of presents and compliments, for it is not her natural habitat, so to speak. Her fiend - Mia - has still bot returned to her, and a I stare at her without the merest of blinks, motioning with a finger for Eve to follow me as she steps outside into the finest sliver of moonlight.
“Are you okay?” I ask warmly, tring to sound caring, like a regular Human, though I do not believe I have much difficulty with my skills, and also the fact that they are so stupidly shallow.
“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?”
I nearly laugh out loud. Eve really is making it far too easy for me to coax her into this false sense of security. She really is incredibly naïve. Her eyes scour the garden fearfully, and her heart skips a beat as her gaze lands on the stone. The engraving is familiar. Too familiar.
“It’s okay, Eve,” I whisper, almost mockingly, eyes as mad and demented as the heart from which their controls come. “Just come with me.”
Eve can’t think. She can’t. Her mind has been wiped blank by an inescapable sense of fear. By me.
The cave’s tenebrosity is foreign to Eve’s eyes, for they are almost permanently in sunlight, what with her Humanity, almost permanently in sunlight, and the cave's elongated shadows are almost causing a complete solar eclipse. “What’s happening?” she asks, in a fit of terror which clawed its way right to her heart. “Where am I?” A deafening ringing screams in her ears like a super-charged fire alarm, and at t first, she thinks she has simply hit her head, and awoken in the night with a blank memory. But now she sees the shining knife in my hand. It is 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 roars, though there is a quaver in her voice. “A psychopath?” She clenches her fists in preparation to fight me, and it is a last, desperate attempt at finding something which made even the tiniest sense. “Sociopath? What in God’s name even are you?”
My eyes flash a brighter scarlet with a lunatical gleam, my hair scarcely covering the evil intentions behind my soul’s window. My mind is wild, just as I always knew it had been. So many times I have thought of myself, myself and this unshakable fear I have all too often plastered on my victims’ panicked faces. “I think you know. I think you’ve always known.”
Something like recognition breaks the tension in the air – or perhaps only increases it with Eve’s fear – a knife slicing neatly through a chocolate cake, gleaming with a beautiful dark sheen. At this precise moment, in the cold stillness of Death’s essence, a heart-wrenching scream tears through the air. I smile manically, a malicious glint in my merciless eyes.
Eve has heard many wild tales of what lies beneath the cold stones of graveyards, but never has she felt so unprepared to find out, mostly because no one would expect to find out, not alive anyway. Swarms of Firepits (though Eve is certain they are Humans, a she has no idea of what we really are) advance upon her, glowing ruby eyes looking her up and down hungrily, as though she is the dessert after a poor main course.
“Oh, she does look delicious, Kear,” a particularly pale-looking ex-Core says running a deep red tongue over a glistening white triangle edged into her gums. “I’ll look forward to the jam.”
"Now, now," I tell her, laughing gleefully. "She is not for you. She's a sacrifice."
Behind me, Eve gulps.
It seems almost inevitable to her that her earlier predictions are correct, though she had piled endlessly hope upon hope that they were not. I take 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 is the centrepiece at a great party.
“Do you know what this is?” I snarl, lip curving upwards in a sinisterly murderous fashion. “This is what we like to call the Door of Despair. Or Death. Whichever you prefer. You’ll be dying soon, anyway, if luck is on our side.” I think that is what Aareia told me to say, but it doesn't really matter very much if it isn't, for she isn't here.
Before Eve can even think of how to react to my threat, a voice like a knife on a tables whispered in its grating voice, “Time’s up,” and I lunge forwards.
Eve braces 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 feels she would never again feel them lie flat.
But the darkness does not come. Well, it does, but not in the way Eve predicted.
“Stop.” Aisla’s voice rings out across the room like a war siren, its urgency overwhelming, passing whispers through fast-moving hands. “Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!” Eve turns to the voice’s source, heart pounding in her chest. Another mouth to feed on her, perhaps? Someone to save her from the clutches of death? A saint? Or a sinner? “And, please, dim these lights, it is simply atrocious for us to have these scorching our eyes, but not a fire.” Her scrutinising gaze scoured the room, softening as the lights – or lack thereof – cast looming, leering shadows over the Fire Pit.
Time seems to slow down as Eve whispers the words, “Who’s she?” into the silence, earning many cruel glares sent her way.
“Who am I, you ask? Humans like you have no need for this information, but as you wish.” I look at the Aisla with something which could be described as something reminiscent of reverence, as though she is the candle great adventurers sought out in the darkness. The silence between Aisla words was almost deafening, as though each is 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 Gabriella. 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,” another Firepit begins, a cold glint in her steely eyes, “should we take her away now?"
“Yes, take her to the Soul Ruins. She is worth a lot of memories.”
The Soul Ruin is a cold, wasted place, as damp and derelict as if it has not been seen since its building in ancient times. Eve hopes that is the case; maybe we will not enjoy the taste of the torture we are to put her through.
A thin piece of dark fabric covers a strange device, an onyx inlaid into the odd sort of metallic material. Its many infernal burns scorch Eve’s mind repeatedly, injection fear’s paralyzing poison; the dawning sensation of certain death.we have strength never imagined by Eve, or any other Human, and the world turns black with death’s hands, adorned with glinting, bejewelled nails which tear mercilessly at her skin. An indistinguishable voice grates on the steel plate she is forced onto, a reminder of Eve’s cruel fate.
The sound is like the call of death that never came.
But as the wind howls above us and the pain becomes truly unbearable, it began to ebb, numb, and the world and its colours return with full glory. Eve screams. She doesn't know why, and neither do I. But she is screaming. There is only one thing worse than death, she thinks to herself, and it is not something stripping away her life, as one might assume. It is something stripping away her soul.
Eve feels something land in her eye, irritating and vexatious. “Quiet!” I snap.
A scream echoes off of the wall behind her, and she shivered with a pained face, reaching out to find a small fragment of warmth. She is met only by frost. “Don’t even try. The choice has been made already.”
Eve knows what choice it is that we speak of, but yet still the concept is incredibly confusing. As many of my 'friends' and I shall testify to, 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 can be no difference.
But these creatures have roamed the land before even the time of true Human civilisations. They're right, Eve thinks to herself. They know what to do here, and I don't.
The words are on the brink of her tongue, but a memory strikes her like a bolt of lightning, and her heart drops.
Pain. Hot, red, fiery pain.
Darkness. Cold, cruel, damp darkness.
Screams. Whispers, shrieks, howling screams.
She knows of their source, that which has caused her so much moral anguish. “I need a moment.” Eve has left before she’d spoken.
She runs, pulse racing, hoping with every ounce of her body to find an escape from the cruel labyrinth.
“Come here, Human!” I screech, as the other Firepits circle their target in the narrowing darkness. “May your pain never end!” It pains me, too.
A red-hot poker grazes Eve’s arm, a blazing inferno of pain. She shrieks violently as more and more cold figures crowd her, claustrophobia pouring down on her. A spectral light flickers above her head, and Eve screams, just screams, an ear-splitting, heart-wrenching scream.
“I wish I’d brought some garlic bread with me.” We are not all what Humans would call 'vampires' , but clearly she does not know that.
Her eyelids flutter lightly as she attempts to drift into a dream, hopefully one containing fluffy unicorns and pink pandas. The darkness, she thinks, was nothing more than a catalyst. Pain and obliviousness, those are what truly create her fears.
She can not bring herself to think of what is happening to her, only that, if she does not soon regain her self-control, it shall most likely end in death. Her death.
“Perhaps you would like to know,” I say with a wicked mask of a smile, “we have a sort of ... family tradition, as you might say.”
“What’s that?” Eve asks, trying to sound confident, though there is a fluctuation in her voice. She sounds as though she is about to cry. Perhaps she wants to die. It shall certainly make this a lot quicker, not too mention considerably less painful for us both.
“No one can escape.”
Screams of terror echo off the walls, ricocheting endlessly around the stone box, falling shamelessly from the great manor’s ancient eaves. A stone arch begins to form, rising from the ashen grass, a warning to all its visitors. One girl shivers as she glides elegantly over it, staring back with empty eyes.
An inscription 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 whispers 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!” She is no longer brave, she is no longer strong. She is just beign herself, and herself is a weak character forged in the fires of fear. Despicable.
Such a beautiful sight meets her eyes now, it is strenuous to imagine any other luxury, hard to imagine anyone could ever want anything else. “Then I shall. This shall be your last.” It hurts me, but it must be done.
So I let her be embraced by Death.