Once upon a time –not that long ago, actually– there was a town. Not too big, not too small. It was pretty easy to overlook that town, since it was so boring and quiet. However, each town had its secrets, and that town was no exception. In fact, its secret was much worse than some others. Behind the town, there was a large forest that no one dared to enter. Every time anyone dared to venture into the dense, thick forest, they were never seen again.
The disappearances were ignored, and nobody talked about them. It was as simple as that.
Only the most foolish people would step into the forest. They'd ignore the warnings of danger and just walk into the forest like the ignorant morons they were. It was just a tally on the ever-growing list of disappearances. The residents of the town no longer cared. It was just something else to overlook. Nobody ever hoped for them to come back, since it never happened. Not today, tomorrow, or the day after. The outsiders who came into the town mostly never stepped out of it alive.
"Wow... This place is big..."
Bella Valentine's big eyes shone with a clear green tone. Her long, waist-length auburn hair was tied into a simple plait with a piece of red ribbon. She had a innocent – somewhat naive – look about her as she smiled at the townspeople, a small skip to her step as she walked around. She wore a long black gown, a stark contrast to her sparkling personality. The townspeople smiled back, wondering how long it would take this new girl to disappear.
Two similar figures stood in the shadows of the alleyway, hidden completely. Both looked no older than fourteen, yet their burning violet eyes made them seemingly older. They were twins, wearing matching outfits. Strangely enough, the outfits looked like dolls' clothes; a fluffy white blouse, a long black skirt, and a small black jacket covering the blouse. They watched the girl skip around town, sometimes singing a little happy song. The look in their eyes was absolutely chilling.
"Hm. A new stranger has arrived..."
"Quite. Another one to add to the collection."
"Think she'll be easy to trick?"
"She seems immature enough to fall into any trap."
"Shall we do the usual?"
The twins giggled, seemingly melting into the shadows till they were completey gone. The giggles echoed off the walls of the alleyway, going all the way to the city. Bella turned around curiously, suddenly getting the feeling of being watched. She stopped and looked around, cocking her head. After not hearing anything for a while, Bella shrugged and resumed her skipping through the town.
She found it abnormal to hear two children giggling so oddly.
The feeling of being watched followed Bella the whole day. She rubbed her eyes tiredly and yawned, struggling to keep walking. Night was approaching, and she hoped to reach the nearby inn before then. She glanced upwards, noting the full moon. Smiling, Bella continued to walk, till she reached the edge of the town, where the inn was. As she dragged her feet to the inn, she heard a voice speak to her. It was soft and gentle, just like a little child's voice.
"Hey, Miss, where are you going?"
Bella looked around, trying to find the person who had spoken to her. "I'm going to the inn. I'm sleeping there tonight," she replied, still unsure where the voice had come from.
The voice sounded disappointed, as whoever it was let out a sigh. It was probably a female.
"I was hoping you could play with me," the voice whispered, as if it was embarassed.
Bella realized the voice was coming from the thick undergrowth of the forest. She smiled and said, "I suppose I could come for awhile.."
"Yay! Then come find me!"
A soft rustling of a nearby bush hinted where the person was, and Bella found herself running into the forest eagerly.
Although Bella found it slightly strange that a small child should be playing in the forest alone at night, she followed the child, watching and listening for her. An odd rustle behind her alerted her of someone's presence and she spun around, launching herself into the bush. Bella's fingers closed around a child's wrist, and she said triumphantly, "Caught you!"
Just then, she noticed that the child was laughing, and she furrowed her eyebrows in confusion.
An innocent giggle sounded from behind her, and Bella turned around to see another girl, very similar to the one currently in her grasp.
"Got you! You caught my sister, not me!"
The girl stuck her tongue out in a mocking gesture and ran over. Bella noted the resemblance.
"You didn't tell me you had a twin!" Bella defended herself, releasing her grip on the first girl.
The second girl nodded and said, "Yeah, you're right. I cheated." She hung her head in shame.
The first girl laughed and suggested, "Come on, let's play another game! But, to play it," she paused and pointed to Bella, "you have to keep up with us!"
Bella grinned and replied, "Deal! Before we play, who are you two? I didn't see you around town today."
The twins laughed in unison.
"Keep up with us, then we'll tell you."
They stood up, holding hands. Bella stood up as well, and said, "By the way, my name is Bella. And I'm really happy that we're playing together! It's so much fun!"
The second girl grinned.
"It's going to get more fun, just wait!"
"Okay then, let's start!"
Bella followed the twins, running as fast as she could in her long gown. The forest was dark, even with the light of the full moon. She blindly followed words of encouragement from the two twins, running deeper and deeper into the dense forest. She continued, avoiding branches and tree roots and rocks.
"Come on, we're almost there!"
"Where?" Bella heard herself call out.
"The place where we're going to play, obviously!"
She followed them, slightly confused until she saw it. It was a large mansion, which seemed to have been there for centuries. It seemed to be rotting, yet the lights inside enticed her to come in. Her eyes finally drifted down to the door, where the twins were already standing at. One of them gestured towards the door, telling her to go in. Bella walked up the steps. As she walked, the steps creaked loudly, as if trying to stop her from entering. She ignored it and walked into the house, the twins closing the door behind her.
Inside the mansion, it was brightly lit with different colorful lights. One of the twins told her to go to the dining room and wait for them. Before Bella could say anything, both of them sped off, leaving her alone. Shrugging, she slowly explored the mansion, looking into the different hallways and rooms. Finally, she reached a doorway with the words 'Dining Room'carved above it in cursive.
She pushed open the large mahogany doors and saw a rather small table for three, The largest chair had the words 'GUEST CHAIR' carved into it neatly. Bella sat in the chair. It felt worn, like thousands of people had sat in it before.
Before she could think any further, the twins entered the room, each carrying a plastic tray.
"We are glad you could join us!"
They placed the trays on the table, and all of a sudden, the room was filled with the smell of sweets and candies. The first tray held a bowl of syrup and the second tray held a plate that was piled high with cinnamon sticks.
"Help yourself, Bella," the first girl said, gesturing towards the sugary treat on the table.
"There's plenty to go around," the other added, as they both sat down and watched Bella intently.
Bella picked up a cinnamon stick and dipped it in the syrup. She watched the syrup drip off the glistening stick. It reminded her of a magic wand. She smiled and bit off the end of the stick in her hand. It was sweet, but the syrup was thick. The taste stuck in her mouth even after she had swallowed, and for a moment, Bella felt like she was choking on sweets and sugar. The feeling soon passed, though.
After chewing on several sticks, she put it down and said, "I'm full."
Then she noticed that neither twin had taken a bite of the cinnamon sticks or syrup. She frowned and asked, "Aren't you two going to eat?"
They shook their heads and one of the twins informed her, "We ate earlier." Bella nodded, then realized that she still didn't know their names.
"Ah! I forgot to ask your names!"
The first girl grinned and said, "I'm Cara."
The second girl said, "I'm Mia."
Bella stood up and said, "Well, Mia and Cara, thank you for the food, but I really have to go now. I'm really tired." She yawned to prove her point
Mia pouted and said, "I thought we were gonna play a game..."
Bella sighed. "Okay, I'll play for awhile..."
"Okay, we'll put this blindfold on you. Then, we'll drag you around the house and see if you can distinguish reality from dream. It's really fun!" Mia winked at Cara.
Bella nodded, and Cara tied the blindfold around her head. Darkness surrounded Bella and she frantically pushed the blindfold upwards, off her eyes. Mia pushed it back down.
"You're not allowed to take off the blindfold!" Mia said.
Bella muttered a soft apology and promised to keep the blindfold on. It was a strange game but it seemed fun.
Bella found herself absorbed in the game. Nothing else mattered. Just the game that she was playing with the twins. She found herself forgetting everything. She couldn't tell what was reality and what wasn't.
Who was she?
Why was she there?
Who was she with?
The only thing that stayed on her mind was the game and the twins.
After some time, all the exhaustion she had been feeling earlier came back in a wave of fatigue. Bella fell forward onto the ground, panting. She heard Cara's voice.
"Aww.. Bella... Can't we play for a while longer?"
"I'm sorry, I give up. I'm really tired," Bella replied. Her hands lifted up to take off the blindfold, but she froze, shivering when Mia whispered in her ear.
"You promised not to take it off."
Quickly dropping her hands, she sat up and pulled her knees to her chest. "Maybe we can play later, but right now I'd rather sleep.." Bella admitted. She heard the twins sigh in unison.
"Ok, we'll take you to a place to sleep, but you have to play with us later, okay?"
Bella nodded, trying to lift the blindfold again. This time, it was Cara who said, "Nuh-uh! You promised! We'll lead you there, so relax!"
Bella nodded and let herself be pulled along by the twins, slowly feeling her consciousness slip away.
She trusted them.
The minute Bella's eyes fluttered open, she felt a pain in her neck. She realized that she was in a sitting position and she frowned. What had happened?
That cursed blindfold was still on her face.
For the first time, she noticed a small hole in the fabric of the blindfold. She peeked out of it, examining the interior of the mansion.
The bright lights that had once illuminated the entire mansion were now dimmed drastically, long shadows threatening to grab her and never let go.
Hadn't they been playing together like the best of friends? Weren't they friends? Wasn't it just an innocent game?
Was this real?
Two figures seemed to be larger than the sea of shadows. They seemed to be getting closer, approaching her in silence. She shivered, feeling the tension as the figures got closer. Bella froze as the figures stopped in front of her.
Squinting, she slowly tried to make out their faces.
The twins crouched down to her level. Their smile was malevolent, and their eyes screamed sick, twisted pleasure. Cara's expression didn't falter as she said, "You horrible child, why did you wake up so soon?" There was a hint of anger in her voice.
"If you are going to drop your blindfold, would you like me to blind you?" Mia cracked a sick joke, smile widening ever-so-slightly.
Bella stared at her through the hole, and slowly she began to laugh. It was some dark, dark humor, but she found it silly. Mia's voice was happy and bright as she laughed and cooed, "Look, Cara! She's laughing! How adorable!"
Cara agreed, laughing along with Mia, but then abruptly stopped.
"But she believes in so many lies," Cara paused, jerking Bella's head upwards, "so let's play one last game..."
It was then that Bella noticed the gleaming knife in Cara's hand.
She knew they weren't joking.
She knew what was going to happen.
This was real.
Loud screams – loud enough to shatter glass – erupted from the mansion, happy, childish giggles along with them. One last scream was cut short, and no more noise came from the house.
They wanted nothing more than to add another to their collection. She wasn't the first – nor the last – to step into those terrible, sinister woods.
The town didn't care.
That girl, Bella Valentine, was simply another tally on the list of those who disappeared.
"Good evening sir, how do you do?"
"I'm ok, thanks. This is my first time in this town, and it's actually pretty nice!"
"Welcome to our town, sir. But, let me give you a piece of advice."
"Don't go into the woods. Bad things happen there."
"Oh, please! That's just a superstition; an urban myth!"
At the sound of that, two figures giggled, hidden in the shadows of an alleyway.
They watched the newcomer – short black hair, a big grin plastered on his face. He seemed ridiculously merry and immature.
"What do you think?"
"He'll be easier than the girl."
"We'll go tonight, then."
"Another one to add to the collection."