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It was as black as a bottomless quarry, the only source of light came from the floating crescent shaped, silvery moon. The townsfolk were deep in slumber, not even stirring. A strong silence passed over, like a tidal wave crashing against jagged rocks on the beach. Not even the melodic hoo’s of an owl or the slight swaying of the forest pines could be heard. Most people would be perturbed by the eeriness of such a soundless night yet others found comfort in its simplicity and peacefulness. One person in particular was especially fond of the taciturnity, Lila Ballard. Every morning, when the sun's beams finally peeked out from the edges of the sky and the moon dipped down into it’s dusky domain, the people of Palmerton rejoiced. The trendy stores displaying scarcely clad mannequins opened up for business and the waft of warm, freshly baked, muffins from the nearby cafes drifted down the block. The entire town bustled with chatter and laughter, clusters of teenagers stood around gossiping, young couples strolled around the park and elderly ladies paraded around with their pampered lap dogs and designer handbags. For most, the start of a new day was welcomed with a smile and steaming cup of coffee but for Lila Ballard, the daylight made her want to pull the blankets high over her head and cringe. For one thing, school was always a persuading reason as to why she should remain in bed but more nettlesome was the artificial cheeriness, the empty grin of the storekeeper as she hands out a receipt, the suffocating, cloyingly sweet air, the sidewalks and roads, perfectly constructed, almost to perfect. Palmerton was a picturesque scene and on the outside it shined like an illustrious pearl necklace. On the inside, something cold and bleak festered. Something only Lila Ballard could detect.

The alarm clock rang, a shrill beeping noise that infiltrated every nook of Lilas mind. She moaned and slapped her hand against the snooze button but it was no use trying to get any more sleep. The curtains were tightly closed and articles of loose clothing were strewn messily around the room. She rubbed her eyes and let her dark curls tumble around her. Pulling on fishnet stockings, faded ripped jeans and a tight muscle shirt with a high neck that read run free, she examined herself in the mirror. Noticing the time, she sprinted downstairs to find her mother fervently on the treadmill in a baby pink, juicy couture track suit.
“Mom, what are you doing, I am going to be late for school?”
“Darling, I am sculpting my figure, I need to be nice and toned for bikini season. There’s fresh apple and kale juice on the kitchen counter waiting for you!” Lila took one look at the putrid, green liquid sloshing in the glass and almost vomited.
“Umm, I think I’ll pass,” she said, grabbing a granola bar from the pantry. “I am waiting for you in the car, try to not take to long with whatever you're so, she paused and glanced at her mother and couldn't help how foolish she looked, ummm with whatever you're so preoccupied with,” she said rather bluntly.
“Okay honey, be there in a jiffy,” she said not noticing her daughters aggravated tone.
The ride to school was fairly quiet except for a couple of pleasantry remarks.
“So darling, how is school? “Do you fit in well, are you making friends?
“Yes mom, I am fine, everything is fine, peachy keen…”
“Well good, I was so worried your manly sense of style would frighten your peers, Oh dear, did I just say that, I mean edgy, yes rock and roll as they call it!” Lila looked at her mother in a state of complete indignation. She rolled her eyes and started looking intently at the window. Her mother continued,” I just always see those girls at your school wearing such gorgeous, flouncy skirts and knitted sweaters, You know it wouldn't kill you…”
“Stop it! Mom, I will never dress like those girls, I am not like them,” Lila intervened. Her mother gripped the wheel tightly, her blood, red nails seemed to get sharper and pointier. Her eyes gleamed as though she was possessed, the car swerved and diverged from the road causing Lila to catch her breath. “Mom, were going to crash, Stop it!” she screamed with a rising panic.
“Oh sweetie, I am just having a little bit of fun… why, look! We have arrived at school,” Lila’s mother said impassively. She halted the car abruptly in front of a towering, stone building that read Redrick V. Berks academy and day school. Lila peered over at her mother with mix of fear and bewilderment. They sat face to face, her mother smiled, the whites of her teeth glistening. Hey eyes as featureless as glass, lips locked back in a half snarl, half grin. “Okay, munchkin… you're gonna be tardy, we wouldn't want that,” Lila’s mother said as she smoothed her hair. Internally, Lila felt horrified but she remained placid in front of her mother.
“Bye mom.” Lilas mother pulled her gucci sunglasses over her eyes, blew a kiss and sped off in a cloud of smoke.

The marble pillars depicting intricate gargoyles and intertwined flower wreaths had Lila fixated. She couldn't identify with the dread oozing around her stomach, like a parasite slowly but steadily consuming her flesh from the inside out. Her mother had acted so strange, so inexplicably, mortifyingly bizarre. It was a feeling that Lila couldn't shake. As she walked to her class, her thoughts were interrupted by the sharp, click - clacking of black, high heels. The scent of crystallized sugar filled her nostrils and a shrill voice penetrated her ear buds. “Oh Lila! We haven’t seen you all summer, where have you been hiding darling?” A pair of three, young, girls sashayed over to Lila. Their rusty, cinnamon tresses billowed in the wind like a rapidly, spreading forest fire. The tallest one, clad in a pleated leather dress had piercing, green eyes and a set of fringed bangs that framed her oblong shaped face. Her comrades were dressed in a similar fashion. They stood behind their leader, preened and poised. “Hello, Andrea, fancy meeting you here,” Lila announced nonchalantly.
“Well, this is the school we attend, there’s a fairly good chance we're going to bump into each other,” Andrea retorted. Lila was about to reply but Andrea continued, “And you know what honey, I’d rather not have these little rendezvous with you, I am a spiritual person and you block my path to enlightenment and decentralize my aura,” she said ostentatiously.
“We wouldn't want poor, little Andrea to have a decentralized aura,” Lila mimicked in an infantile tone. Suddenly, her face became serious, “Bite me,” she said to Andrea with newfound pluckiness. Andrea’s face contorted into a bitter scowl, her fabricated jeering had turned from harmless to bona fide fury in a matter of seconds. “Watch your back, Ballard!” she said. She turned on her heel and walked away in long strides, her posse trailing close behind.

The school bell rang, signaling the start of class. Lila made her way to the front and situated herself. She felt a light tap on her shoulder. She whirled around, ready to confront her assailant but then relaxed when she saw it was just Porter. “Lila, I have news!” he said quietly. Porter was Lila’s best friend. With his attenuated frame, sunken cheekbones and deeply set hazel eyes, he looked as though he had just crawled out of a graveyard. Nonetheless, he was kindhearted and always willing to defend Lila. “I did some snooping and I found something, something huge,” he murmured.
“What is it? Is it on Andrea, I always knew there was something fishy about her, about this entire town!” Lila said.
“You got that right! Its more than that though, Lila, this is really serious! He leaned in closer and whispered, “Palmerton is overrun by monsters, we just don’t see them. He slurred his words as he said the next sentence, “I heard them talking, they answer to this higher being, the “Crowned one” as they call it.”
The shock on Lila’s face couldn’t of been masked. “Are you joking with me right now, Porter? This is not funny! I mean monsters!!!! They don’t even exist, there used in fables and fairy tales to scare little children.”
“I wouldn't joke with you Lila, does it look like I am joking? I was in awe as well….” Porter was about to finish his thought when the door to the classroom busted open. The glass windows shattered into tiny fragments, their razor sharp edges flying in all directions. In the hallway stood Andrea. She had changed out of her dress into a sheer, lace floor length gown adorned with obsidian and rubies. Her hair was piled onto her head, like a coiled snake. She stood there glaring at Porter and Lila.
“Please continue what you were saying Porter, don’t stop on my account!” Andrea said menacingly.
“I, uh, I, um was telling Lila about last nights homework, you know Mr. Bree, he’s a stickler!” Porter said while nervously twiddling his thumbs.
Andrea circled them, “I am so sorry It had to end like this,” she said sarcastically. Her mouth opened, revealing a blackened, forked tongue and razor edged canines. She licked her lips, saliva and drool spewing. Bending her knees, she cracked her knuckles and lunged, claws outstretched and eyes bulging.

To be continued…..

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