Monday, 27 February 2017

Short Story: The Face

by Hannah Millerchip

Nature's autumnal litter swirled along the footpath. Rustling as they fluttered around, crunching and crumbling to nothingness when stepped on. The fragments, firey russet, were lifted to the skies, then blown their separate ways by the unstoppable winds. Perhaps a little twig would fall from thekijv  canopy overhead, its dull brown figure snapping in two when the unassuming foot laid down. When an acorn ventured past the securities of home, not even its tough shell could help it. Shiny chestnut amidst pale auburn and cloudy brown, standing out, begging for the birds that screeched above to feed on its wholesome body. Purple stained the dust around the base of bushes, where the carcasses of berried deemed unfit by the consumers lay. Mercilessly, the bullfinches barked and the crows cawed. But, like most things, they too were watched over. You'd rarely ever see a bird's dead body. The killers would swipe them up too fast, trying to keep hidden from the keen eyes that saw every single movement.

Sally loved her walk to school.

The leaves crackling as she pranced around, humming with the faint, cool breeze that made the trees dance and the bushed wiggle. Since she got up so early, she was able to spend her time that she would've spent sleeping dreamless dreams playing around in the woods. There were no words to describe how much she enjoyed the forest's company. There were endless things to explore, but she preferred to stay on the path. She knew every crack, every turn, yet everyday something was different. The bushes might be full of berries one day, the next they were all eaten up. Sally giggled as she trotted around a little in a stream, but when the water level suddenly rose and splashed the ends of her dress, she quickly got out and tried to wring her clothing out. It was useless. The water had made the red heart on the bottom of the creamy white cotton bleed, making it look like she'd just suffered at terrible incident, or spilt her jam sandwich filling everywhere.
“Great.” Sally muttered under her breath. Her mood was thoroughly ruined as she thought of her Mum's reaction. As she plodded stiffly to school, excuses flew around in her mind. Trying to find one what would seem like it wasn't her fault, was believable and seemed like something that would happen to her was hard. Finally, her responsible side set in and she decided she would tell the truth. Just as she made up her mind, she found herself through the school gates and getting her stuff into her tray.

Something made her shudder. A slow, icy finger trickled up her spine and she felt eyes preying on her. Vulnerable. An easy target. The feeling made her stomach convulse, her body hair stand on end and her eyes fly open as-
“BOO!” A ear-splitting shriek came from Sally's mouth as she whirled round to see her attacker.
Jamie. A smug expression on her face, a smirk plastered on her lips. “Damn, I got you good, didn't I?” A slight chuckle bubbled into a laughing fit. “Haha, this makes up for seeing a dead fox on the way to school!”
“That was mean, Jamie!” Sally whined as she playfully swatted her friend on her gold arm, ignoring her friend's remark about the fox. Jamie had a weird fear of them for some reason, she thought they looked ready to kill at any moment. Jamie's short, coffee boy-hair was unbrushed and swept to the left, using an almost invisible black clip to pin it there. However, it was untamed and free, ignoring the clip's rules. Her wolf-like eyes, slanted upwards from the cheeky grin on her plump raspberry lips, and her button nose decorated with freckles made up her face. Her bronzed skin, still tanned from her summer in Spain, coated her tiny body as navy leggings wrapped around her legs and a tight t-shirt with a video game character on it covered her torso. Though she wasn't the tallest person in the class, people generally tended to keep out of her way. A school fight happened once, Sally remembered, and Jamie simply walked in between them, shot a glare so scary it could kill, punched one in the face and kicked the other one right in the stomach. From then on, if a fight happened, all Jamie had to do was appear and the two parties were apologising and wishing each other a good day. Though that did have repercussions. Like a three-week suspension.

Sally sighed as she helped her friend up, her dusty blonde, almost brown, curls rolled down her back. Her pale hand took Jamie's as she pulled her up. It took some effort, as Sally's light frame was better at agility than strength. Her sapphire eyes were wide-rimmed with curiosity and innocence, her long, fair eyelashes fluttering as she sighed at her friend's antics. Being the responsible one, she always carried bandages and antiseptic wipes in her cute kitten bag. As she pulled out the medicine, she wrapped an injury Jamie had created on herself from the laughing fit. To keep it in place, she took the red, glittery ribbon that tied her hair in a high ponytail and secured the cloth bandage that she'd carefully sheathed Jamie's elbow with. “We'll be late to Maths if we don't hurry up...” Sally frowned as she finished the bow.
“C'mon then!” Jamie raced off.
“W-wait!” Sally took after her, snatching her pencil case.


“Sally.”
“Psssst, Sally!”
“Sally!” Jamie's soft whispers finally got Sally's attention.
“What is it? I'm trying to find X!” Sally's irritated whisper made Jamie smile.
“Truth or dare?” Jamie smiled with bright eyes.
Sally huffed before responding, pandering to Jamie's mischief.
“Dare.”
“Okay then,” Jamie's voice held the hint of a laugh, “go deeper into the woods. At night.”
Sally was shocked. “T-the woods? The one near me?” Her voice rose as she furiously whispered, “Jamie, you know about the disappearances!”
“So you'll do it or what?” Jamie was as stubborn as ever.
After a long pause, Sally's murmur was caught by the teacher.
“Jamie! Stop talking!” Jamie always got blamed for things she didn't do. Sally hated seeing her friend getting told off, but they had an agreement that Jamie would take the punishment whenever she could. Her parents were strict to the extreme, and Jamie loved nothing more than being rebellious. Sally reluctantly agreed, but right now she was considering breaking their promise.

Soon school was over. After saying goodbye to Jamie, she walked home. Thoughts were flying through her head. Was she scared? Excited? “Ughhhh!” Sally hit her head repeatedly, trying to straighten out the mess in her mind. “I will be fine!” Her footsteps were aggressive now, angry at herself for doubting something so trivial. When she arrived home, she flung the door open, thumped her bag down, ripped off her shoes and went to greet her mum.
“Hi mum.” Sally said as she grabbed two glasses and filled them both with water.
“Oh, Sally!” Her mum leapt over to hug her daughter. “How was school?”
“Good.” Sally's short response was expected. Sally's mum smiled softly until she saw her dress.
“Sally! What happened!?” She pointed to the heart, now a red blob.
“It got wet on the way to school. I never realised the dye would run that much.” Sally was placing cutlery around the table, ready for dinner which her mum was making.
“Oh, love, I'm sorry. I'll get a different dress this weekend. I love you so much.” Her mum hugged Sally again. Sally carried on arranging the knifes and taking plates off of the shelves. Sally's mum let go, remorse in her glossy green eyes. She piled the plates with creamy stew. From the looks of it, it seemed to be chicken chunks in a cheese sauce, with onion, carrots and ginger chunks floating in the sauce. It appeared to melt in the mouth, and Sally was soon finished. She washed her plate, and put on a coat.
“Are you that cold, Sally? Here, I'll get a blanket!” Sally's mum was eager to help her, but Sally's clear voice rang out.
“No thanks. I'm heading out to the woods. See you later, Mum.” Sally pulled on her shoes and turned around to receive a hug.
“Be careful.” Sally's mum tightened the hug, sorrow still gnawing at her insides.
“I will. I love you.” Sally hugged back, before turning around and leaving.
“I love you too.” Sally's mum whispered, tearing up as Sally shut the door.

“I was worried about nothing.” Sally thought as she trekked up a little slope, then leapt over a fallen tree. Everything seemed like a normal forest. The usual rustling, the same birds calls...
ca-ca-ca-cawww!
Her heart stopped. “Was that?...” She thought, looking up to see a raven. It was a raven! A really, really rare raven! She'd never seen one before. Gasping in joy, she watched it fly away. “Wait for me!” She laughed softly as she raced off after the bird.

A twist here. Leap over the rock. Slide to the right. Duck under the branches. Tiptoe over the stream's stepping-stones. She stopped. Sally's raven couldn't be seen any more. “Where'd you go?...”  Sally gazed around. The trees above were unfamiliar, towering over her way more than the oak trees did. “That's okay...” She thought, “Just retrace your steps, Sally.” She mumbled to herself. Go right. Leap left over the tree stump. Balance on the log over the stream... “Where am I?” She choked up. Fear rising. Choking. Suffocating her. The tears rolled out. Panicking, whipping around, trying to find her sense of direction. Lost, alone, terrified...
CAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
She jolted up, sprinting at full speed towards the sound. Her instincts told her the raven had just been killed. Nothing makes that amount of noise for no reason. Furious at the killer, it was her duty to scare it away. Yeah, give it a taste of its own medicine! Suddenly, she leapt into a clearing. “RAWR!” She roared at the killer. A small, white fox gracefully turned towards her. Sally's thoughts left her. “A-an albino?” Her rare find had been killed by something even rarer. Before the excitement set in, its red eyes met hers, staring into her soul. Darkness surrounded her, she was swathed in black.
“Yup,” she thought, “definitely an albino...”

Colours... Colours and shapes... Blurry shapes... Giant, blurry sticks... With fuzzy tops... Trees... Dark trees... Pine trees... “Pine trees...”. Sally rose her head, feeling light and transparent. The pine trees that covered the sky because they were so thick filtered the light, dimming it just enough so it didn't hurt Sally's foggy head. She smiled softly, a content look in her waxy eyes. Gracefully she rose to her feet, feeling her mind's thoughts align. Her home wasn't too far a walk, and as she daintily brushed past branches and whisked around bushes Sally realised how warm and inviting the dancing shadows were. All she wanted was to lie down in the dark, but she had to get herself home. Finally, the rushing sound of a waterfall trickled like music into her ears. The amplified sounds were welcomed and with one bound she leaped right into the waterfall, and landed on the other side. She knew how far she should jump. As after all, she was home.

Shaking all the water out of her body, she blinked. Her eyes adjusted in mere milliseconds to the dark, yet it wasn't quite... Dark. Everything was black with green shading. Shapes. For her to see, it must be light, yet the green and black combo suggested it was night. How, then, could she see? Sally squinted as she made out what the cave looked like. A sudden flash of lightning confirmed that she was, indeed, home. Large, cracked, grey walls rose above her head. The entrance was normal sized, around the size of a dog flap. The crashing of thunder roared overhead, but thankfully she could see now. Sally looked over at the corner of the room.

CRASH!

Light struck the room, illuminating the corpse. Sally hunched forwards, peering at the dead body. Creamy white skin with pale green chunks hollowed out. The ribcage was torn open, the skeletal structure broken. The skin had been ripped, looking a rotten pus colour where the marks were. Inside, the organs were splattered with mould and crusted blood. Sally gingerly prodded one, and it flopped, limp, slimy and squelchy. The organ convulsed lightly, as some sort of yellowy green mucus drained out of it. The stench of rotting flesh smelt like off milk, chicken and raw egg combined, burning in Sally's nose. The eyes of the person were stripped of their eyelids, leaving a blank stare around her home. The mouth was open, blood and saliva were trickling out from the corner, staining the floor where the body was splayed across. Not only was the body revolting in itself, the liquids that stained the floor and coated it's insides in a slippery goo were even more horrid.

Sally trotted past, curling up in the corner of the room. Her sleep was shallow, and she when she awoke it seemed to be night time. Had she slept for 1 hour, or 24? The question didn't even pop into her head as she padded out, only one thought consuming her.

She must catch her prey.

A feeling of magnetism rang through her body. She knew exactly where she was heading, yet had no clue what she was doing. She moved around, direction-less but navigating the forest accordingly. She entered a small coppice, and felt the need to lower herself into the undergrowth. With sharp eyes, she made out a human male. He was donned in all-brown clothing, a telescope pointed at the trees. Sally knew he had his back to her, and the same force overcame her, but stronger. She felt herself know, sort of, what she had to do. Keeping low, she dashed silently into the copse, landing square on her target's neck. A swift bite, the warm flow of blood wreathing it's way through her canines and soaking her tongue. A scrape to the stomach, the slash she'd made rolling out blood in waves. The target was limp. Crimson stained Sally's figure as she picked up her prey, dragging him home. The odd hunger in her stomach was quenched. For now.

Many nights flew by, many days came and went, time escaping her. Time seemed like something that didn't exist, just fabricated. Today was different. Her gut feeling was overwhelming. A seething rage. Something even stronger was compelling her. Her thirst to maim forced her out of her den, and back into the hunting grounds. Sally's ears pricked. She stopped abruptly. Listening intently for the thing that made the spell weaken.

“SALLY! SALLY, WHERE ARE YOU?”

A pang of emotions overcame her, too many to unscramble. Confusion wracked her brains as she wondered why what this human said made her feel so... Odd. Why did she feel like she recognised it? The voice, a sound she'd never heard before, felt so welcoming. Her body told her to run, run to the other side of the woods. The sudden feeling of emotion made her heart warm, something she'd never experienced. She ignored the enticing feeling dragging at her very being. Sally raced towards the noise.

Full pelt sprinting, flat-out running, wind whipping at her face and forming tears in her eyes. Her streamlined figure bounded over land, metre by metre. Soon, panting, she felt a stab of pain through her chest, drawing her away from the noise. Emotion. Warmth. The sound made her feel so many confusing things. She had to find the source. Had to! Pulling away from the icy clutched of suffering, she leapt again. The pain intensified with every centimetre she trod. All she needed was one look... One........ Look........ Dragging herself, the pain was so unbearable she knew she was going to faint if she walked one more step. But she could see her destination. One foot was placed, and just before she blacked out, she saw a grief-stricken figure crying in the grass, clawing it up by the handfuls.

Suddenly, the pain stopped. Warmth spread through her. “A-AH!” Sally yowled as images flooded her mind. Sweet smells, kind words, cloudy scenes hindered her senses. The taste of something sweet was on her tongue. The words “Ice-cream” sounded in her ears. She collapsed, then the hallucinations stopped.

“JAMIE!” Sally's body couldn't move faster. She bolted right towards her friend, confused, screaming and crying. Sally needed her comfort, she felt... Alone. Like she hadn't seen a living being in weeks. Jamie's head snapped up, her eyes searching. Fear struck them, her arms jumping into action as Jamie tried to scramble away.
“GET AWAY!” Jamie screeched, terror blatant in her face.
“What?” Sally stopped, scared by Jamie's urgency.
“I SAID GO AWAY!!!” Screamed Jamie as she fled to the forest.
“Wait! Jamie, I-!” Sally was cut off by the sight of white flashing beneath her. “Is that?-” Sally moved her arm, then raced to the nearest puddle. She looked down, her worst fears being confirmed in a heartbeat. A blood-stained face stared back at her.


The face of a little, white fox.

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