Running From Shadows

November 21, 2010
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"We have to move quickly," Evelyn said as Charlie took her hand and started down the street. She glanced at the steadily darkening sky. The sun would be gone soon. Too soon. Please give us enough time, she prayed.

They flew down the streets, drawing stares from the people they rushed past.

She felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. Looking back over her shoulder, she could see shadows-seemingly harmless, mundane shadows of ordinary things such as carriages, building corners, benches-that were frothing, bubbling, stirring to life when she passed. A shiver ran up her spine along with the terror that seized her heart. She tightened her grip on Charlie's hand as a sense of resolute, almost maternal determination steadied her. She would not allow Charlie to be harmed. Somehow, some way, she would keep him safe.

They turned a corner into a narrow street that was already lined with shadows because of its position behind the sun. Dread had Evelyn breaking into a cold sweat. Her gaze darted around, wary as she studied for any sign of movement within the shadows. She had taken them by surprise, apparantly. They weren't yet awake, unlike the ones hounding her.

"Are we nearly there, Charlie?" she whispered. She nearly ran him over when he came to an abrupt stop. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"What is...Miss Evelyn, what is that?" he breathed, pointing somewhere to the right. Evelyn followed the direction his finger was aimed at. Her breath caught.

The shadow in the corner of the street, dark and thick and ominous, was sifting. Rolling. Crashing their way at an alarming speed.

"Run!" she ordered, shoving Charlie in the back. He stumbled, and then they were both making a mad dash down the street. "Where's the house?" she shouted as they ran. She could barely hear her own voice over the pounding of her heart.

"What's happening?" Charlie sobbed out as small wisps of darkness shot out from the advancing shadow. They cut across Charlie's arms, ripping cloth, leaving behind holly-bright beams of blood.

"Just keep going," she choked, stumbling over the bottom of her dress. She felt a cold tendril wrap around her elbow as fast as a striking snake. Crying out, she wrenched free and struggled to catch up to Charlie.

They rounded a corner that poured them into the open street. The sun was nearly down. Only a thin slice shone above the horizon. People made scattered sounds of shock that turned into strangled screams of agony when the shadows overtook them. My fault, Evelyn thought with a mental sob as she and Charlie streaked down the street, leading the darkness along with them. She could see it out of the corners of her eyes, could watch as it swallowed those they passed. All my fault.

Her long legs were about to overtake Charlie. She clenched him above the elbow, jerked him to an even faster pace, but she knew it was futile. She could feel it with a type of sixth sense; it was almost upon them. Just as Charlie rounded another corner, she deliberately fell behind. She tried to stay quiet, but a small cry still managed to escape her lips as a clawed hand of darkness closed around her ankle and sent her crashing down. Stars burst in her eyes as her right kneecap slammed into the ground with her entire body weight bearing down upon it.

"We found you," the voices whispered, their tone tantalizing and infuriating at the same time.

"Let me go!" She writhed on the ground, pain bursting from her knee. The darkness creeped up from her ankle, slithering over her thigh.

"We found you," the voices repeated. "Finally, the key belongs to us. To ussss..."

The darkness brushed her hip, cold, biting cold. Desperate, she struggled all fours, lurching to her left to take pressure off her injured knee. She crawled forward only to fall face-first into a puddle.

Drenched, she struggled up again, shaking her sopping hair out of her face. The darkness was binding, wrapping around the lower portion of her body. Constricting even as it traveled upward. It didn't take a fool to guess it was heading right for her neck.

"Die," The voices shook in her ears. "Die and belong to us."

No, she thought, reaching out, extending a hand. But there were no stars out. No moon. Blindly, she reached for the closest light: the firelight enamating from the torch hanging from the bracket on the wall. Blinking past the water that clung to her lashes, she splayed out her fingers, groping, groping-

The fire was moving. Tiny dots, insubstantial as flecks of burning dust, rushing toward her palm. It burned her flesh, drew a scream from her throat as the flecks of light solidified, molding together to form a shape that looked, vaguelly, like the bird depicted in the story book Josie liked to read, used to like to read, at home...

The phoenix was small, hardly larger than Evelyn's head, but held an air of regality as it arched its long neck, rose onto two shimmering legs of fire.

The darkness halted its progression. The phoenix reared back its head, opened its blindingly bright beak and-

Nothing. Evelyn heard nothing. Yet the darkness immediately receded as though scalded.

"Hurts, hurts, hurts," the voices screeched. "Burns, hurts, scalds!"

Evelyn was left lying in a puddle, her body quaking, unable to move. She felt the phoenix-rather felt with her intuition, as the bird was weightless-clamber onto her back, as though guarding her. Her eyes were so heavy. She felt as if she was falling through a long tunnel, as if she was...

She closed her eyes and felt herself fade away.

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