Hey Guys and Gals. Hope you enjoy this one :)

Dying Embers

The road was deserted, by people and by light.

Where was I? The road in question did not look familiar to me and I couldn't even remember how I had got there. It was surreal, as if someone had grabbed me, placed me at the top end of the road, propped me up by my left shoulder at the side of this old, rotten, hotel and just left. Like it was a prank or something. Except, I didn't remember any prank. Was it amnesia? Had I gone crazy? I wasn't sure.

It was a strange place. The road in question was seemingly never-ending, lined at both sides with derelict hotels that stood parallel to each other. The shattered glass windows glistened under the full moon and the wooden panels nailed crudely across the entrances to the hotels made it known that not one of them was occupied. The brickwork was damaged so badly that as I traced my hand across the wall I was leant against absent-mindedly, the cement crumbled at the touch.

Other than a lone street lamp that stood at the end of the road, it was almost pitch black. The moon gave off some light, but obscured by clouds it was not nearly as bright as I would have wanted it to be. I decided that leaning against the dilapidated hotel, staring at the small, ominous orange glow in the distance, was clearly going to get me nowhere. Regardless of how I had ended up in that street, I would have to make my way out of it. After all, there must have been a reason that all the buildings were eerily empty. I decided that I would walk towards the street lamp, see where that got me. I hoped, perhaps, it would take me somewhere that looked a little less like something from out of a nightmare.

As I walked, I took notice of the name of one of the hotels. It was called the "Sleep Eazzzy" Hotel, the three Z's obviously resembling sleep. Despite the situation I had found myself in, and the knot that had formed deep in my stomach, I still couldn't help but smile at the broken letters. Sparks emitted from the busted light bulbs, leaving the hotel's name reading "Sleeazzzy". It certainly seemed a far more fitting name.

Vaguely, I remembered being with friends. I recalled celebrating passing our exams, drinking some beer and eating a ham and mushroom pizza. Would I ever see them again?
My throat felt dry and an impending sense of doom crept over me. Maybe I was over reacting. I tried to calm down, breathe deeply, yoga style. It had no effect. Perhaps being a lone young woman in a street that resembled something post-apocalypse was the reason behind that.

"Hello?" I called out, "Is anyone here?"

Silence. Of course, I should have expected as much.

With hair standing erect and my heart beating so much it felt as if I may explode, I continued on my journey. The street lamp remained in position, no matter how fast I walked. I was not getting any closer. I glanced over my shoulder, saw the same brick wall which had been behind me when I had arrived. I hadn't moved an inch, despite walking for miles. What the hell was this place?

Then, I saw him.

Out of the corner of my eye, a blur of movement. A flash of his denim jacket and then he was gone. Who was he? What was he going to do?

I tried to run, cried out for help. It was of no use. No one else was listening and I certainly wasn't moving. There was no escape from the ominous road.

Shrouded in mist, the figure emerged from the doorway of what was now known as the "Sleeazzzy" Hotel. Somehow, he had gotten in there, despite the boards that were nailed all over the fa├žade. My mind played tricks, taunted me with scenarios of this man's intentions. Of his identity. Was he a serial killer? An innocent bystander?
Hell, from the weirdness that had happened since I had arrived in the road - was he even there at all?

"Who are you?"

He did not respond. Instead, he revealed a large, hunting knife. Yet, despite being armed with a deadly weapon, he did not move. He stood perfectly still, his face obscured by shadows. He was watching me. Waiting.

Fear had taken hold and I could feel myself slipping into the grip of a severe panic attack. My head spun, my heart raced and I began hyperventilating. Still, he watched.

"Please," I breathed, "Don't hurt me."

I saw a faint grin cross his lips as he stepped into full view. A nightmarish, haunting grin.

"I am the Devil." He said, "And I have come to do the Devil's work."

I screamed, louder than I ever imagined I could. And then, my world went black.

"Jess!" I heard my name being called, "Earth to Jess!"

I opened my eyes, dazed and confused, staring up at the sky. It was morning, and I was outside on the cold hard floor. What on Earth had I just experienced? Where the hell was I now?

I sat up and found myself amongst familiar faces. My friends all staring at me, a yellow tent pitched against a large oak tree in the Forest of Dean. The campfire in the center, discarded pizza boxes and beer bottles. After a while, it clicked into place. Of course - the celebratory camping trip for passing our exams.

"Guys," I breathed out, "There was a man... and this road and lots of hotels and..."

"Jeez, how much did you give her man?" One of the group giggled, "She's gone batshit crazy!"

What? So none of it was real? Had I imagined it? Dreamt it? How could I have imagine something so frighteningly real? No. I couldn't have.

My best friend Paul laughed, "Only a couple. She doesn't do drugs though."

Drugs? I was furious.

"What!" I exclaimed.

The group giggled. One girl, Tanya, stood up and did an impression of me running around the campfire screaming.

"You were hilarious!" She concluded.

"Yeah, Paul laced the ham and mushroom pizza with magic shrooms, for a laugh." Another chirped in, "Lighten up, Jess. It was a bit of fun."

It hadn't been fun for me. That road, the ominous stranger who obviously intended to kill me, had been far from fun. I was annoyed, angry at Paul's betrayal. If I had wanted to take drugs I would have chosen to, he didn't need to lace me, whether it was for a laugh or not.

"Fuck you guys." I sulked, "It was awful."

As the gang got ready to head home, back to job hunting and university applications, I remained sat on the floor, by the campfire. Paul tapped me on the shoulder,
explained I'd had a "bad trip" and that I should just let it go. Think of it as a nightmare, that none of it was real, he said. He apologized for his behaviour but I did not accept it. In fact, I wasn't sure I could look at him the same way again. It was one joke too far.

Eventually, everyone had skulked off to the tent, sorting out their belongings and mocking my experience of magic mushrooms loudly. I frowned, thinking maybe I should just let it go. But as I sat there alone, I could not shake the sense of foreboding that crept over me and I was not sure that I'd ever be able to walk down a street at night alone again. The experience had truly frightened me, no matter how much of a wuss that made me sound. I sighed, regretting ever coming on the camping trip in the first place.

"Come on, Jess," One yelled from inside the tent, "Pack your stuff, let's go!"

I sighed.

"In a minute, just, just give me a minute."

I did not move. Instead, I remained there, knees drawn up to my chest, alone with my thoughts and the dying embers.

Thanks for reading!