There she was. Sitting at the edge of the city just as she did every day at this time. Her knees were tucked up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them tightly while she settled her chin on them. She just sat there gazing into the distance, into the land beyond the city.
No one knew what was out there. No one dared go into the Unknown, not with anyone and most definitely not alone. After all, what was the point? Nothing was left. The war had destroyed everything and everyone. All that’s left now is a wasteland, barren and scorched from the radiation of the bombs. Yet, she sat there. Every day she sat there and I always wondered what it was she was looking at.
The sun peaked at the horizon. It was saying its goodbye with a splash of light that set the world ablaze in rays of yellow, orange, and gold. Her hair, dark though it may be, shone brightly. The glow dyed it a gorgeous red, which mirrored the maple leaves in Fall. It was as if it were a gift to me for watching over her as she sat so far away from the protection of the city.
It was dangerous to sit out so far. Even with the war behind us, the fear lives on in the people who survived and they dare not venture outside, afraid of what they’ll find, or perhaps afraid they’ll find nothing at all. Yet, she never seemed scared. Her body didn’t quake when she walked boldly out there to sit in the same spot, like she’d marked it somehow. In fact, she looked almost sad. Her shoulders would slump forwards and her head would hang whenever she came back. Sometimes it felt wrong to watch her. I wondered if perhaps I was intruding on some secret conversation she was having with the sun in its last moments of the day.
Though, I always kept my distance. I always stayed perched on one of the few solid roofs on this side of the city, watching her, waiting for her to return, willing myself to say something to the beautiful girl with the silent words in her eyes. I never built up the courage. The world beyond stole such a chance from me when it decided to wreak its havoc on the beautiful girl with the crimson-streaked hair.
I had glanced away for only a second. The sun was practically blinding me as it did every night around this time, the day coming nearer and nearer to an end. Yet, nothing could have blinded me from the way her voice pierced through the evening sky. Her screams cracked against my ears. The sound echoed hollowly in my chest, practically knocking me off the roof as my heart spurred into a panic.
The sun still glared in my eyes. I couldn’t see her or what had made her shriek in that blood-curdling way, but I didn’t care. My body lurched from the roof before I had time to think better of it. Within seconds I raced across the dusty landscape to the place where she always sat, her shadow, and that of another, taunting me in the distance.
Adrenaline coursed through my veins. I loosed a war cry, trying to scare away the attacker, but it didn’t fear me. It simply glanced up. The eyes, glowing with an unearthly yellow iridescence, watched me. They gleamed out from the ebony face of the creature, the contrast of light and dark intensifying the shiver running down my spine.
My cry caught in my throat. It squeaked into non-existence as the creature’s jaw parted, barring spike after spike of flesh-ripping teeth. Each one stained a deep red. Not the red of the girl’s hair, but of her blood, which dripped from the creature’s maw. Drops splattered onto her olive cheek. Her once thoughtful eyes stared blankly into the darkening sky, not an ounce of life behind them. Still, she was beautiful, even in death.
The creature moved, snatching my attention from the girl. Its paws slipped towards me. Yet, it moved not like a tangible object, but more like a shadow with no distinct shape. Its edges blurred and redefined themselves as it paused. The rumors of shadow-demons ran through my head, clutching my heart in a tidal wave of fear.
A low, grumbling resonated within my chest, bouncing off the hollowness of my lungs, yet the creature gave no sign of making the noise, even as it inched its way towards me. Its tail swished to one side. A crackling noise accompanied the movement, causing me to cringe. The tail wasn’t black. Only the gleaming white of exposed bone extended from the shadow-demon. Again, it moved. The clacking were the bones readjusting themselves against each other as they shifted. The sight was more grotesque than the sound. My stomach churned.
Moving slowly, the creature’s paw lost its shape as it slide another pace towards me and my heart escalated into a flurry of beats. It was going to eat me. It was going to sink its razor-sharp teeth into my throat and rip it from my body as it had with the girl. Panic encroached upon me. I dared not look back to the city, but I had to get back. Would it follow? Would it chase me into the city? Would I even make it?
My palms sweat. My heart pounded. My lungs heaved in attempts to supply air to my body, and in that split second when the creature hesitated, something shifted in its eyes. The glowing yellow iridescence vanished. A darkness swept through its eyes, consuming the iris until only a soulless black remained, and I ran.