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The forest behind the Birchwood estate was typically quiet this time of night. Usually, the only sounds were the wind blowing through the old trees and the occasional nocturnal animal scurrying through the underbrush. Sometimes an owl would hoot, or a particularly strong wind would flutter the leaves and ruffle some fur and feathers, and perhaps, if you stood near the creek out back, you’d hear the babbling of water over stones. But no, usually, this time of night, the forest behind the Birchwood estate was quiet.

That was not the case tonight.

The girl was barely eight years old, breathless and frightened, her red-ribbon-tied blond pigtails bouncing as she ran from the house. She was screaming, crying, but this deep in the woods, no one could hear. Her feet flew over the dirt and pine straw, disturbing a few animals that came out to see what all the fuss was about. And then the thing chasing her would pass them by, and the animals would return to their burrows, cowering, trembling in fear.

She tripped over a tree root and fell to the ground, her hands and knees scraping against the dirt, the front of her dress dirtying. Behind her, the creature whooshed and howled, the sound inhuman, and the girl scrambled to her feet and continued to run. Tears streaked down her face, and her sneakers splashed into the creek behind the house, deep into the woods, the water soaking her socks. Normally, she’d pitch a fit after such an event, but not tonight. Not with whatever it was chasing her.

Eventually, though, she tripped again, and this time, her dress caught on an exposed branch that pulled her back down when she tried to get up. The girl turned around to face what was coming for her, her screams unheard by any who cared to help, and then the moon emerged from behind a cloud just and shone on the creature’s form. 

It was upon her in seconds.

The smoke–for that’s all it appeared to be, black smoke with a mind of its own–enveloped her face and forced its way down her eyes, her nose, her throat. The girl tried to scream again, but nothing came out. The smoke entered deeper, deeper, until it was inside in its entirety, and the girl’s face went slack, her eyes fell shut, and she collapsed on her back onto the forest floor.

For a moment, the woods were silent once again, not even the wind daring to blow. No animals scurried by, no birds hooted in the branches. The cloud covered the moon again, and the forest slipped into darkness.

And then the girl smiled and opened her eyes, and they shone like the black of the abyss.

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SashaGonzaga

Bio: Hi! I'm a YA/new adult fantasy fiction writer. My main stories are urban fantasy, sci-fi-esque superhero, and space western. I also love cats, tea, chocolate, and both playing and designing TTRPGs!

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