The crunch of orange and gold leaves echo through the valley as the whisper of the dried corn husks speaks of spirits still traveling this path. As the coven traipse solemnly through the field in remembrance of their fallen sisters, Farina pauses. Something is off.
It's paranoia, she sneers to herself, smirking at her mind's silly suggestion that someone is watching.
Just as she's about to take another step, she sees it.
Like a gazelle sensing a lion lurking just out of reach, the hairs on the back of her neck rise, throwing a wildfire of goose bumps across her skin, shifting her weight. She dare not move. Unable to call out, her vocal cords paralyzed with fear, she watches helplessly as her sisters continue down the worn path, blissfully unaware. Immune to the shift from predator to prey, leaving her behind.
Her senses heighten as the lowering sun casts its last golden rays just past the horizon, plunging her surroundings into darkness, with not even the moon to keep her company. Minutes tick by until she's lost all sense of time.
With the darkness, she expected the beasts of the night to stir, but it was deathly quiet. The shuffle of the corn husks interrupts her thoughts, forcing her to take one step, then another, until finally, she is able to continue the path her sisters had long since passed. But not without looking in the direction of where the eyes had been.
She continued to scan the wood line as she walked, careful of any loose gravel or underbrush, but then she saw it.
When she first saw the shadowy figure, she thought it was odd-looking bark, but as she peered closer, it became apparent that there, hiding among the leaves, it was watching her.
Deviating from the path, she stepped closer, trying to make out the person's features. It wasn't until she took eight more steps that she realized it was a child. Pale and gaunt.
Farina reached toward the child, "What are you doing out here alone?" When no answer came, she tried again. "Are you hurt? Lost?"
Still, no answer save a tilt of its head.
Her stomach dropped. Something didn't seem right, but she needed to help this kid. What if the child was hurt or lost? What about the parents? Where were they?
Hurrying towards the child, questions plagued her mind, thoughts racing with how she was going to help them. But when she made it to the wood line, she stopped dead. There, a pale, smiling boy stood with dark voids where its eyes should have been. Reaching towards her, he grabbed for her sleeve. Farina side-stepped to evade his sharp claws that intended to pull her towards him. His grin widened, displaying two rows of sharp teeth.
"Are you my new mommy?" His eerie, disembodied voice pierced the silence.
Farina took a step back, and the child followed.
"Where are you going, mommy?"
Fear seized her, but she couldn't let it affect her, not this time. This wasn't a child of this world nor a benevolent spirit. This child, this thing was dangerous.
Turning, she ran. A growl sounded from behind her. She knew, just knew, that it was him. The hunt was on, and she was its next meal.
Dodging undergrowth and cutting through the cornfield, Farina raced back to the path towards the witches' Samhain festival. If she could make it there, maybe, just maybe, she had a chance. But she didn't make it.
Heavy footfalls sounded behind her. They were too heavy to be a child's. Aching to look back, she forced herself forward, knowing that it would only slow her down if she looked back now.
A fire ripped through her right shoulder down her back. She fell, arched against the pain. Her blood was boiling, muscles spasming. She couldn't breathe, couldn't think. It was only when she heard the heavy puffs of that creature behind her, scenting her, that she froze.
Farina tried to move away, tried to glance behind her, but the pain was too much. The little hand grabbed her ankle and pulled with an otherworldly force. Screaming, she resisted as it pulled harder, dragging her back towards the wood line. Fighting the flaring pain, Farina twisted and fought against the ground, dirt and gravel embedding themselves into her nails.
The monster laughed, flipping her onto her back, and pulled again. Dark spots swarmed her vision as the dirt dug into her fresh wounds. Gasping out a sob, she cried out while the child continued to pull her to the edge of the forest.
Darkness ensnaring her mind.
To be continued...