The shadows seemed to grow darker as she got closer to them. Her little solo game of hopscotch seemed to end with her just a little bit closer to the shadows every day.
Maybe the shadows will swallow her up before summer ends.
Her parents didn’t like her playing around the abandoned fort. They said the buildings were too old and could fall down on her at any moment. But she wasn’t scared. The buildings looked sturdy enough for her.
Her older brother had told her horror stories of kids disappearing. They were always being eaten alive by wild devil wolves, dragged to the underworld by skeletal demons, or taken by ghouls and turned into zombies who would then hunt down other kids foolish enough to enter the fort. But she wasn’t scared. She comes out here almost every day to explore, to play her own little games, she had never seen or heard any wolves, demons, ghouls, or zombie kids.
Of course, she hadn’t yet entered the fort. Maybe all the monsters are trapped inside.
There were a lot of interesting places outside the fort, lots of places to play the games she creates for herself. However, as the summer days came and went, she had danced and sang and played among all the different worn ruins and forgotten monuments. She found herself drawn to the entrance way more and more. The wide brick arches and thick brick walls echoed her tap-tap-tapping as she danced on the stone tiled walkway. The salt air breeze whipped around the columns as it whipped her long hair into a frenzy around her face.
Her most recent game, her very own version of hopscotch, she had been playing for days. She hopped around on the square stone slabs, first on one color, then another. At first she would sing to herself as she played, but as she realized her game was bringing her closer to the shadows, her singing got softer and less frequent. Finally she was playing her game in silence, pausing every now and then to try to peek into the darkness. Sometimes she thought she saw some indescribable shapes moving in inexplicable ways in the murky blackness.
She played alone because she didn’t have any friends. All the other girls at school would avoid her, wouldn’t even talk to her. She knew they talked about her behind her back, telling nasty stories worse than anything her brother had ever told her. But she didn’t care. She didn’t need friends, certainly not friends like that.
She stopped hopping and just stood there, staring at the shadows, closer than she’d ever been. The darkness hid the entrance to the fort. The ocean breeze danced with her hair, but she was still as a statue, barely even breathing.
She had a friend once. A little girl named Sue. Sue was different. Sue’s skin and hair looked different from anyone else’s. So did her eyes. Sue was teased and made fun of by most everyone else, and ended up by herself a lot too.
When Sue joined her little games, she didn’t object. They didn’t speak much, but they didn’t need to. Sue seemed to know the rules of every game she made up without needing an explanation. They played and sang and danced together almost every day. No one seemed to notice, or if they did they never mentioned it, but Sue and her never laughed as they played. Not once.
But she and Sue haven’t played together since the beginning of the summer. When school was out, she decided that she was going to explore the old fort, in spite of her parents warnings and her brother’s stories. Sue hadn’t wanted to go. That very first day, Sue walked with her all the way there, hoping she would turn aside, but she never did. When they got to the edge of the clearing, they stopped and looked at each other. Sue wouldn’t go any further, but she was determined to go on.
That was the day they parted. Sue turned away first and left, but never went back home.
Everyone was in an uproar for days. Sue’s family was hysterical, her parents too. All kinds of strange people came to talk to her, asking her questions about where she last saw Sue, and what happened that day. She couldn’t get near the fort for several weeks, as people were searching the fort and the grounds and the woods and the beach all that time. No one found a thing. Sue had disappeared completely.
So she sang and danced and played her games by herself again, but she didn’t mind. The stories people told about her grew more gruesome and dangerous, but it never bothered her.
She noticed the sun was heading for the horizon. Her parents would be expecting her home soon, and she was never late.
It was time to go, but she hadn’t finished her game yet.
She did something she had never done before. She broke her own rules. She had never stopped playing a game before it was finished, not once. But it was time to go. She took a step. Toward the shadows. Her parents would be mad if she was late, but she didn’t worry. She took another step. She was right on the line of light and dark.
Even though earlier the shadows seemed to get darker the closer she was, now that she was right before them, they seemed to pull away from her. The black was merely a dark grey now. She could see through the dim half-light to the main doors, big and heavy-looking.
She walked up to the doors, the shadows swallowing up any sound her footsteps made. Pushing on the doors, they didn’t want to open at first, but then they swung wide for her.
Walking inside, she wondered what she would find.
She found herself in a huge room, completely empty. Just like her. Empty. With monsters trapped inside.
Written in response to the Daily Press’ Weekly Writing Challenge.