2 hours earlier
The thunder cracked above our heads, sending shocks of noise through the dense forest. The giant oaks and conifers are packed closely together like great sentinels enclosing our hidden secret.
We were huddled together in our clearing, no bigger than 6 feet across. In front of us lies a large stone slab, engraved with mystical etchings. One for earth. One for water. One for air. And another, which has a symbol no one understands-apart from myself. In the centre we place a stone, well it isn’t really a stone. No bigger than the size of the palm of a child’s hand, yet with the power to change the world as we know it.
We speak in unison. Our voices monotone. As we chant, a thick mist engulfs our bodies. It felt cold on my clammy skin, like it was sucking out my soul. I looked at the others and they had the same image plastered on their faces that I imagine I have on mine: horror.
Yet our eyes were shining, it was working!
Then the cold begins to oppress me, my chest is tight, and I can only manage shallow, quick breaths. I shiver uncontrollably as the mist creeps over the hem of my shirt, rolling down my spine.
Yet still we chant, our voices unwavering. The thunder cracked louder and louder and the wind tugged viciously at the trees, grabbing at their branches in the hope they would be ripped from the ground.
And then the mist wins, and I’m dragged away from the stone, the clearing and the chanting. Everyone’s voices become distorted as my head begins to swim. The sky could be anywhere…then an ebony black enclosed my vision…
Groggily I heave my body out of the mud, swaying as I try to find my balance. I take in my surroundings: a dark forest behind me, a shallow stream running over my feet and the road into town to my left. Hang on, how did I get here? Why am I on the other side of town, dressed in a black cloak and covered head to toe in dirt?
And then a terrible thought enters my pounding head, SCHOOL!!! Urgently I check my wrist only to find my watch has gone. I have no idea what the time is, how I ended up here or why I am dressed like this! I’m going to be in so much trouble.
So I run. My heart is a firecracker, my legs like twin rockets. I’m late for school and running faster than I ever have in my entire life. Fears of getting slapped with a detention (and mum going mental) spur me on. Breathlessly, I propel myself through the school gates, surprised that nobody is on gate duty. Weird. Guess I must be later than I thought…
Sneaking in through a fire exit, I nip along corridors as silent as a ghost, glancing through the zoetrope of open doors. Every single classroom stands as empty as a tomb. Where is everyone? Just as I begin to panic, I hear an eerie sound….
It came from the end of the corridor.
And behind me.
In front of me.
I twist my body, lashing my arms out into the air, shaking my head to get rid of the haunting noise. It sounded like people singing, no not singing, moaning. Wailing. Screeching. It sounded like death.
Then it disappeared as soon as it arrived and absolute silence filled the corridor. I sank to the ground and buried my head in my arms as I tried to make sense of everything, tried to remember how I got to the forest and what happened among the trees. But nothing came to me, so I went searching for people, for the living, for any sign of life in the school.
After what felt like a century, I realised that I didn’t even know what day it was. For all I know it could be a Saturday, I might have been lying unconscious by the forest for days! That would certainly explain my hunger, but it still left many mysteries. Like what was that sound?
As I thought of the sound and the forest the strangest thing happened, everything glitched, like when your TV loses signal for a moment, and I saw trees and mist and three figures huddled around a body…my body!
Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. So I grabbed an abandoned bike that lay in front of the school and peddled, like I had never peddled before. I rode all the way back to the forest, not even stopping when my legs screamed in agony.
When I arrived at the bespattered stream, I flung myself off the bike and without thinking raced into the chilling woodland, in which I saw the daunting visions.
As I strode forward, the mist started swirling around my legs and arms, cloaking my body in a blanket of death. But I knew what I was doing, I had never been more certain in my life. And then I willed a darkness to enfold my eyes and I was lost to the world of shadows.
Then I was back. I was Death once more. And around me were the living. Air, Water and Earth, smiling at me. Then Air said, “We are glad you are back, Death, the world wouldn’t have been the same without you.”