I wrote this for the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition. The first part in italics is the bit that was already written, and we had to carry it on. Please enjoy!
It might have been the world's most beautiful night. No moon. Stars like searchlights. A thin layer of ice covered every branch and leaf and blade of grass. It was perfectly, eerily, still. Nothing rustled the hedges and I could imagine the rabbits and badgers, rolled up tight in their underground dens. It took the haunting scream of an owl to tear me out of my dream, remind me that I was not here to enjoy nature. There was work to be done.
"Come on you dozy mare." I growled, tugging at the lead I was holding. It was not, in fact, attached to a mare, but to a small black terrier called Jake. It still defeats me as to why, more often than not, terriers are called Jake. I don't think the name suits them.
Jake yapped and tried to bite me.
"Oh, come off it." I said as I rapped the dog smartly on the nose and scooping it up in my arms. It struggled for a moment before I shoved a treat into its mouth.
"I don't see why we had to bring that stupid dog anyway."
I reckon I jumped at least a foot in the air as a shadowy figure appeared beside me.
"Oh, God, Damon! Why do you always do that?!"
"Do what?" Damon grinned innocently at me. His raven-colored hair had been tamed by a tattered baseball cap tonight, and his even darker eyes glistened mischievously from within the shadows it cast across his face.
"You know what." I grumbled, turning away from him. "Come on, Quinn will be waiting for us."
We both looked at each other, then turned to look at the house.
"Are you sure he said to meet him inside?" Damon's voice quavered slightly.
"Of course." I answered, more confidently than I felt. "He'll probably be getting impatient."
"If the Shadows didn't get him, that is."
I shuddered, then looked once again at the forbidding shape of the abandoned house once again. It loomed.
I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. "Here, you take the stupid dog." I said, thrusting Jake into Damon's arms and then climbed over the fence. It was black iron, topped with blunt ornate spikes that still managed to rip a hole in my jeans. Once over, I took Jake back from Damon and let him climb over as well.
A sudden gust of wind howled around us, tearing at our cloths and hair with freezing fingers, but then it was gone, almost as soon as it had come. I felt Damon draw a little closer to me. "What are we doing here, Jess?" He whispered. In truth, I didn't know either, but I patted his hand in what I hoped was a comforting way. "Don't worry. Quinn knows what he's doing."
I took a deep breath, calming my nerves, and started off towards the house. Damon gave a yelp when he realized I was leaving him behind and scurried after me.
The gardens around the house may once have been something beautiful, but they weren't now. Time and neglect had taken its heavy toll and the grounds had fallen into a depressing state of disrepair. The grass had grown into a knee-high jungle, and roots and rocks in its hidden depths were constantly trying to trip Damon and I up as we hiked towards the house.
The beautiful night I had been admiring mere minutes ago now seemed to be turning strangely sinister. The clear sky and brilliant stars were blocked from my view by the gnarled branches of an avenue of ancient trees. They grew limp and twisted, as if too tired to hold he weight of all the years they'd seen. Underfoot the ice was treacherous, and already it was soaking through he toes of my trainers and numbing my feet. Also, the distinct lack of nighttime noises was getting creepy now. I'd never, ever felt a silence that was so suffocating and oppressive. And I did feel it, like someone slowly running their ice-cold fingers up and down my spine.
Without warning, a black shape swooped from the shadows, screeching like demon strait from hell. Damon shrieked and leapt into my arms, Jake started yapping, and I almost screamed as well. Almost.
Damon whimpered from where he had buried his head on my shoulder. "Is it gone…?"
I glanced up at where an irate owl had settled on a tree branch, and sat glaring down at us with her unblinking amber eyes. She screeched again, flapping her snowy wings angrily.
"And owl…" I murmured, and then let out a nervous laugh. "It was only an owl, Damon. Nothing to be afraid of."
Damon just whimpered again, so I poked him. "You scream like a girl, you know."
"I do not!"
"Yeah you do."
I snickered, but it sounded so lonely in the silence that I quickly stopped. I really hoped that an owl was the only thing we had disturbed tonight.
"Come on…" I muttered, and gently took Damon's hand, since he was still looking apprehensively into the darkness. It made me feel better too.
Together we carried on up to the porch of the house, where we stopped. Now it really loomed
Two statues guarded the entrance; they were angels knelt in prayer, their dove-like wings stretched out behind them, but, like everything in this sad place, they had succumbed to the ravages of time. The grey stone they were carved from was blanketed in moss, and ivy had snaked its way around their crumbling bodies. Lifeless eyes stared out at the world, looking so forlorn and wretched that it almost seemed as if two real angels had been snatched from Heaven and encased here in stone forever.
At one end of the porch, a child's swing creaked as it swung in a breeze, a breeze that also swirled the dead leaves and carried with it a lament of loneness. I couldn't help but shiver. This place felt so desolate.
I placed my hands against the dark wood of the front door and pushed. It didn't budge. I pushed again. Still it didn't move.
"Damon, get over here and help me!"
Damon snorted. "Get out of the way, you weak girl." He took a few steps back, and ran at the door. His shoulder connected with it and the wood splintered with a resounding crack! Damon fell through into the darkness beyond with a surprised yelp.
"Damon!" I stepped in after him, and found myself in a thick, musty darkness. "Damon, are you alright?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm ok…" He coughed, and then I heard him stand up and dust himself off. "Have you got your torch?"
I searched my pocket for my tiny pencil torch. I'd only brought it because it was in my coat pocket from whenever I was out at night last. It cast a pathetically weak light, which was swallowed up by the darkness almost as soon as I turned it on. I slowly turned the light on Damon, who blinked in its glare, and then I cast it over our surroundings. The high-vaulted ceiling soared high above us, supported by huge pillars that weren't too different form those in a church. The floor was made out of dark-colored slabs. On either side, the hall stretched out as far as I could see, and eventually faded into shadows too deep for my poor little light to penetrate. Above all though, was that the whole place was covered in dust. It lay at least a few centimeters thick; the collected dust of to many years to count.
I felt someone laid a hand on my shoulder and sighed. "Come on Damon, let's go find Quinn."
"Yeah, I'm coming."
I took a few steps forward, then froze. "Damon?"
"Where are you?"
"By the door. Why?"
I felt a cold fear swell within me. The hairs rose on the back of my neck. If Damon was standing by the door, then who… who still had their hand on my shoulder?
I heard a rough, raspy chuckle right by my ear. That chuckle… it sounds familiar, I thought. "Alright, Quinn, you can give it a rest now." I said, relief rushing over me. It wasn't some scary monster from the black abyss that had come to suck out our brains.
"Jess? Damon?" The voice came from a little way above us, where my torch had revealed there was a set of stairs and a balcony. "Is that you two? Come up the stairs, I've found some really cool…"
I didn't hear the rest of it. My heart was pounding so loudly that it filled my head with it's panicked beat and drowned out every other sound. I felt sick. My hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't even hold the torch, and I dropped it with a clatter. It shattered on the ground and I was plunged into darkness again.
The hand on my shoulder squeezed tightly, and someone leaned in close until I could feel their hot, damp breath on my ear. "Scared, love?" A voice hissed. "Don't be, my love… I won't hurt you. Much."
A scream tore itself from my throat as I jerked away and fled.
"Jess, Jess?! What's wrong?!" Damon reached out to me, by I pushed him roughly aside and carried on running. Panic and fear had full reign now. I was faintly aware that someone was still screaming, and it wasn't until later I realized it was me. Terror had leant me wings, and I was fully intent on using them.
I leapt over the ruins of the door, tumbled down porch steps past the two angels, picked myself up again and fled.
All the time I ran, I heard that horrible, horrible laugh rising up behind me, cackling with malice and evil. We'd woken up far more tonight than any of us could ever know.