The Full Moon, by Naomi Schranz
A blood moon they said, they predicted. A supermoon to boot; a wonderous display of the ethereal shining its celestial crimson light on the Earth below. But that’s the thing about humans: prediction is never concrete, especially with concern to the transcendental. Selene just wanted to observe this otherworldly phenomenon, bask in its light perhaps.
Oh, if only.
Selene’s dull footsteps reverberated on the cobbled path beneath and rebounded off the dishevelled limestone encasing her. That, along with the occasional rattling of the contents of her rucksack, were the only sounds present in the desolate street. Strange, she thought, people had seemed to be greatly anticipating this lunar phenomenon. Perhaps she was early. No matter, she could appreciate the antiquated beauty of the passageway in its intended state: devoid of tourists poking and prodding, of busy locals pushing past crowds. She even trailed a finger along a wall, delighted at the crumbling of rock giving way to a cascade of dust.
She readjusted the straps of her rucksack. She was to meet up with a friend, Ashley, to watch the blood moon in good company. Therefore, she had come armed with towels, blankets, and plenty of delightful morsels for them to savour as they basked and gawked at the evanescent peculiarity. Selene, although not opposed to the idea of friendship, did not have more than a select few close acquaintances outside of this particular friend. Perhaps it was her own doing; she scarcely approached others, and seldom looked into their eyes, for what they could reveal, she did not want to know.
A chill ripped through her, wrenching her from her thoughts. She clutched her jacket closer to her chest, about to curse the erratic autumn climate. But then she looked up. And a deep uneasiness broke through her, as invasive as the brisk wind. The sky was immeasurably dark, not a glimmer of a star in sight to disrupt the inky blackness. She told herself that it was the light from the buildings beside her. She felt the hairs on her arms rise. She told herself it was the cold.
She picked up the tempo of her walk, trying to dispel this feeling of wrongness from her body, checking for the area her friend had agreed to meet in. She was glad for the pockets of darkness her town provided for events such as these. However, due to the absence of celestial light, it all felt… wrong. Selene scolded herself for her wild imagination, the stars were merely not visible due to the streetlights. Ah, finally, the park they had agreed to meet in. It was lovely during the day, a breath of fresh air and a dash of green to an overwhelmingly grey and brown town. But looking at it now it seemed ominous; a great wooded beast waiting to swallow its next prey.
The smell of the condensation and dew present on the leaves was not a comfort to her as it normally was. She felt a slight, dull pain forming behind her eyes, a tell-tale sign of her headaches, however, she did not want to leave Ashley waiting as she was normally there way before she was. Worst comes to worst she could leave early.
Finally, she reached the clearing in which they were to meet, and yet, there was no sign of Ashley. Frowning, Selena switched on her phone’s torch, squinting at the sudden burst of luminescence illuminating the surroundings. Still no one. She felt the small of her back tingling; someone was watching her. She whipped around only to find the gloomy darkness staring back at her. Yet, the feeling did not fade. Then, as if the great dark beast winked at her, there was a glint coming from above.
Slowly, she raised her torch, only to find a sight that made her stomach turn. A hand, pale and smooth, draped over a branch. The palm was outstretched, as if waiting for an offering to be bestowed from the lightless sky above. But then the bracelet, the thing that conjured that glimmer of light, she knew it all too well. Her head spun. This must be a joke, it had to be a joke. She stepped back, nearly toppling over from her light-headedness, only for the tingling to start anew, more vigorous than before.
Then she felt it.
Something cold and slender snaked along her back. She violently turned and backed away from whatever it was. She looked at it, immediately wishing she didn’t. The sight alone froze her body, forcing her phone to drop to the dirt below. It had skin so white it seemed to stain the surrounding murk with its alabaster hue. The waxy pallor was only interrupted by a flash of red exposed by the curling of its lipless mouth, which extended till its inhuman ears. It was crowned by two bleached horns that curved and unfurled towards the starless sky above. And its ‘eyes’. They were nothing more than hollow crevices that dragged downwards, caressing its sunken cheeks.
On all fours, it started dragging its hunched back and contorted legs towards her. Selene’s mind finally took control of her fear paralysed body and she bolted back, trying to reach the safety of the city’s warm light where someone, anyone, could help her. Every step sent a jolt up her legs, further fogging her muddled mind. She heard it close behind, indicated by the rustling of leaves and the whistling of the wind. While it made no sound to indicate its breathing, her own breath turned ragged, every gasp of frigid air burning her lungs. She already felt her strength failing her, she couldn’t continue.
And yet she ran, desperately dodging the tree trunks and letting the lower branches sting her face as she frantically threw them aside. Sheer panic blocked her thoughts, a blinding white light that prevented the colour of thought from forming. Only one thought prevailed. Run. And she obeyed, barely feeling the shift from dirt to gravel under her feet as she fled. Everything else was an afterthought – she needed to reach the warm, familiar embrace of the town.
The gravel turned to cobble and concrete under her feet, and looking up, she registered that she was back within the confines of the city wall. She didn’t hear any indication of that thing giving chase behind her. She hunched over, feeling the exhaustion hit her all at once, and as if she were a puppet who had just gotten its strings cut, she crouched to the floor, trying desperately to catch her breath. She felt sick, and her body still shook from the fear.
When her sanity returned, she rose to her feet and looked up, only to have the panic return and start to consume her mind. The city was pitch black, not a window or streetlight illuminated. No, this can’t be happening, thought Selene. Despite the pitch black around her, the stars did not shine, neither did the moon. They were absent, along with the residents of this once welcoming town. Gone… Gone… That one word repeated itself in her head, like an echo in a vacant cave.
She stood there, gazing hopelessly at the forsaken town. She couldn’t find it in herself to run, there was nowhere to run. And just as she abandoned all hope, she felt a cold, ivory grasp envelop her lips.
She tried to scream, but the only recipients of its muffled desperation were the howling wind and the tenebrous, starless sky.