Ingrid must run an errand for her patron, a being not of this world...
|Wind whipped through Ingrid's hair as she raced down the hill. She couldn’t see much on account of it being midnight. All she could was hope she didn’t crash into anything.
The bike kept picking up speed. The clouds covering the full moon moved and suddenly Ingrid could see so much clearer. The park wasn’t far away now.
Ingrid blinked and she was there. Jamming her sneakered feet on the bike’s brakes, she halted to a stop at the park’s entrance. Her dress snagged on the bike seat as she tried to get off. Cursing, she untangled herself and entered the park.
Her heart thumped. She rubbed her bare arms, which prickled with goosebumps from the glacial night. There was an unease in the air. Someone or something was lurking in the trees just off the path. She could feel it.
Ingrid stared up at the full moon and star-speckled indigo sky, trying to calm her nerves. “Why did you lead me here?” she asked the moon, but she knew the answer. She just didn’t want to accept it.
A breeze picked up, making eerie whistling sounds as it passed through the hollow trunks of trees. The boughs of trees bent and seemed to point Ingrid in a certain direction. Ingrid shivered and followed the boughs left.
Eventually she came upon a place she recognised: the playground she played on often as a child. At night, the playground seemed lonely and sad, and a little spooky. The swings’ hinges creaked in the wind. The moonlight made the steel roof of the slide shine bright. Ingrid felt that uneasy feeling again.
Something shined in the corner of her vision. A small object sitting on a park bench. As she got closer, she saw what it was, and her shoulders relaxed with relief.
Ingrid scooped it up and examined it in the moonlight: diamond pendants, like crystallised tears, dripped elegantly from a chain of silver. She had an intense desire to keep it for herself, but she knew she had to resist. That was part of it. Those who gave into their selfish desires and took the necklace instead of giving it to their patron would be burdened with a curse.
Shoving the necklace into her pocket, Ingrid ran out of the park, wondering if the whispering from the trees was only her imagination or if it was real. She didn’t dare look back.
Travelling up the hill was, naturally, a lot more difficult than travelling down, but nevertheless she persisted, ignoring the aching in her legs. Time was running out.
She reached the school gymnasium in record time, parked her bike, and decided there was no time to allow herself to stretch. The deadline was approaching scarily fast.
Ingrid made a beeline for the gymnasium, but once she reached the double doors, instead of entering she made a sharp turn and stalked around the side of the building.
The beat from the school dance’s music pulsed through the ground and seemed to shake Ingrid’s very skeleton, or maybe that was just her shivering. Pink lights streaked through the gym windows and painted the grass a strange colour. Her patron was waiting for her. Her skin began to itch as she got closer, and closer.
She stopped when she reached the shadows. The shadows were territory she could not enter. She could feel the presence of her patron on the other side. Waiting. Watching. Impatient. Hungry. Thirsty.
“I see you’ve done what I asked of you,” came the voice, crinkly like old paper, a voice that sounded so ancient and unnatural that it sent unholy shivers down Ingrid’s spine.
Ingrid dug the necklace out of her pocket and held it up for her patron to see. “Here it is.” There wasn’t much she could do to stop her voice from quivering.
“Good,” crooned her patron. She could see the gleaming eyes of her patron now, two harsh white specks in the darkness like lone stars.
Slowly a hand emerged from the darkness; withered, grey, bony. Almost human but not quite. Ingrid draped the necklace into her patron’s waiting palm.
The hand retracted into the darkness. “Your business is much appreciated,” came the voice. “If I need you again, you’ll know. The moon will call you. Now go. Go back to your dance.”
Ingrid could feel the presence disappear. She was alone. Go back to your dance.
She stood there for a while, deliberating whether she should or not. Eventually her face set with determination. There was no way she was going back there. Never again.
She would, however, do whatever it took to serve her patron. She knew she would be rewarded handsomely.
Whatever it took.