Way to Fall
She returned a victor, but that wasn't the end. It wasn't the end of her story, or the end of the strange happenings that would continue to occur.
After her return, she began to see things. Things she shouldn't see. At first she didn't notice, weaving her way serenely through life, never quite looking hard enough to see what existed beneath the surface.
But one day, she did see, and everything changed.
It was a bright day in the park, a languid day. The green leaves of the trees glowed and cast dappled green gold patterns on the ground. People lay stretched across the grass, half asleep. The shrill sound of shrieks filled the air as children ran around chasing birds and each other. The perfect summer day. She sat, curled up on a bench, her dog sleeping at her feet. She watched the people walk by sleepily, basking in the peace of normality.
Then she saw the woman.
She was an ordinary woman, not too tall, not too short. She was talking on her phone, chatting amicably and occasionally tucking her short hair behind her ear. She wore ordinary clothes and was normal.
But the shadow that never strayed from a pace behind her wasn't. It wavered under the summer sun, an oily shadow, iridescent yet deeply disturbing. She sat up, staring as the two passed by.
Without conscious thought, the girl stood up and followed, memorised by the strange shadow at the woman's heels. The woman never noticed her followers, completely absorbed in her conversation.
They exited the park and as they came to the road. The woman barely glanced up before stepping out. She never saw the car.
The woman was flung away to under a willow tree where she landed with a sickening thud. The car screeched to a halt and the driver got out, talking hysterically. People appeared from nowhere, drawn by an invisible force.
The girl never noticed, she stood stock still, staring at the woman. The shadow knelt by the body. It swept away some of her hair and kissed her forehead in a strangely affectionate gesture, spindly fingers sweeping down her face in a twisted caress. While people crowded round the body and cried for a doctor, the darkness stood and turned to Sarah. It looked straight at her with sightless eyes, in a silent acknowledgement.
She began to scream.
She thought she would never stop.
She woke up in a hospital, a blurry sea of faces bent anxiously over her.
"…Sarah…?" the voices seemed distant. She sat up slowly, with help. She wasn't in pain, she wasn't physically injured, but there was something that hadn't been there before. Feeling strangely heavy, she looked around. She felt like she was suspended in water, and everything seemed so far away. The talk of the people around her was muffled. Her memories shifted, swirling into place.
The woman didn't see the car. Her body was flung out, flying in slow motion like a rag doll. She landed with a crunch. It seemed to echo. Sarah would never forget that sound. Then, that creature…that thing…
She gasped and hunched her shoulders; there was a cold feeling down her spine. It made her shudder. Trying to order her chaotic thoughts, she felt different. She felt…mortally afraid.
A soothing hand was placed on her hair as she rubbed her forehead, a glass of water was offered. Sarah clumsily took it, and drank, staring at the white blanket. The bed was not comfortable, but she didn't notice.
Karen smiled worriedly "Sarah, dear, how do you feel?" she said kindly. Robert Williams, acknowledging the look his wife gave him, ushered Toby out of the room.
Sarah tried to respond, but nothing came out. She was silent, she couldn't speak. A dawning horror came upon her, and she automatically tried to scream.
Tears fell down her face and Karen patted her hand tensely, uttering soothing nothings all the while.
"Sarah! Sarah dear? What's the matter? Its okay, darling…its okay…"
She cradled her stepdaughter for the first time, and Sarah cried as if her heart would break.
The doctors came, and found nothing wrong. It was in Sarah's mind, they said. The trauma of seeing the accident had sent her into shock. She could recover soon, she could recover later. Job done. They told her to go home.
She kept her eyes closed leaving the hospital, because if you can't see them, they can't see you.
Karen patted her arm, and tried to conceal the growing concern that she felt.
They went home and Sarah was still afraid. Her voice still wouldn't return.
She tried to return to daily life, and tried to fit in without her voice. But she saw more of the strange things.
She saw the pale little girl that watched when small children strayed that bit too far from their mothers. She saw how she moved closer and stretched out her long long fingers until beaten back when the mother caught sight of their child.
She saw the nightmares that sat by bedsides and whispered into the ear of the sleeper. The women with cheery smiles and animal feet who sang by the rivers and never meant any harm, she saw.
She saw a lot of sights, good or bad. Some made her smile, and people wondered why she smiled so at nothing. Some made her afraid, and people wondered what made her run away.
As she couldn't speak, no one ever knew. She wondered if she was crazy, but she knew, these things were there – but something had changed her and she saw differently to others.
She was different.
Toby scrambled over to her and poked the sleeping Sarah in her side. "Sarah!" he called insistently. She scrunched up her face comically and peeked open one eye. Toby laughed and poked her again. "Come on, get up!"
He jumped off the bed, and Sarah threw an arm over her eyes with a theatrical groan. There was the dry rattle of the curtains being opened hurriedly, accompanied by sudden glare of sunlight. Sighing aggrievedly, she removed her arm, and squinted at her brother for a moment. "Get up!" he whined, dragging out the syllables.
She nodded wearily with a smile, and swung her feet out of bed. Toby stood to one side, hopping on one leg impatiently. "Come on!" he repeated impatiently. Sarah gave him a dry look as she perched on the side of the bed and he grinned sheepishly "Ok, you can have some time to get ready." He admitted magnanimously.
He turned to go but Sarah patted him on the shoulder and handed him a card with a broad smile. She yawned, and watched for his reaction.
Toby smiled and ripped it open "What? No money?" he asked in mock dismay, shaking the card lightly. Sarah gave him a light punch and he read the card, smiling.
She mouthed 'Happy Birthday' and Toby looked at her cheerfully. "Present later, huh? Ah well. Anyway, get ready quickly!" He ran to the doorway and out. Then his head appeared back round the frame a second later.
"Oh, and Mum says that breakfast is ready and don't spend hours getting up." He prompted, and then abruptly dashed off again.
After getting ready as fast as she could – as per instructed, Sarah sat at the breakfast table, eating quietly. Toby and her father were sitting down also, the former unable to keep still and the latter reading the paper with a half smile at his son's antics.
She finished her breakfast and Karen whisked the bowl away as soon as she'd taken the last mouthful. Sarah still held the spoon slightly helplessly. She started trying to balance it on her finger.
"Toby, where do you want to go then?" Karen asked brightly, tipping the last few sodden remains of Sarah's cereal into the bin. She began to wash it in the sink almost immediately afterwards.
Toby took a deep breath "Well…" he started as a prelude to what surely would be a lengthy list. Sarah sighed inwardly, knowing there were at least six theme parks in the lengthy list.
"Remember, you're doing something with your friends tomorrow, today is for family." Interrupted Karen hastily, evidently thinking the same thing. Besides, it was hard to imagine Karen in any sort of theme park.
Toby reflected on this fact momentarily. "The Fair!" he cried suddenly, with a large and vaguely frightening grin. Sarah fumbled and dropped the spoon. Karen eyed it and snatched it up before Sarah could reclaim it.
While cleaning the spoon, Karen cast an anxious eye at her husband "Will it be safe at a Fair? I don't know, Robert…"
Toby had his most convincing pleading eyes working at maximum capacity, and they were turned full tilt on his father. The answer was a foregone conclusion.
"It'll be fine, dear, as long as we're careful. It's a nice day today, lots of families will be there. It should be fun." Robert Williams said amicably, folding his paper with aplomb.
Sarah smiled distractedly as Toby whooped and cheered. She wondered.
They set off half an hour later and joined the crowd of people moving into the fair. It was held every year at the same field on the edge of town. It was an old fashioned Halloween Fair, with people in costume, merry-go-rides with the scent of oranges and gingerbread in the air. Sarah held her brother's hand and smiled at him as he stared at all the busy cacophony around him.
They moved up to the ticket kiosk and Robert Williams paid the comfortably fat woman, who gave them a warm smile "Ah, it's always nice to see a family day out." She commented, her chins wobbling emotionally while she handed them their tickets. Robert made some polite comment, and they moved off, into the Fair.
Toby saw a stall that caught his eye "Can I go over to that? Sarah can look after me!" he asked Karen, holding up Sarah's hand. Karen nodded with a perfunctory 'Be careful', and Sarah gave them a long suffering look as she was dragged away. They were quickly swallowed by the crowd.
Sarah kept her eyes concentrating on Toby, she dared not look up. If she had, she would have seen the beings of unearthly beauty that wandered through the crowds, or the red haired old man in white who stood by those who gambled. Even if she did not watch them, they watched her.
Toby reached the ride and Sarah looked up to see a horrific ride which seemed to go upside down, up and down, round and do it quickly. Sarah turned her wide eyes onto her brother to show exactly what she thought.
Toby sighed exaggeratedly "I'll go on by myself then!" he said proudly. Her brow creasing in worry, Sarah put her hand on his shoulder and he instantly looked sunny again.
"Come on!" he tugged at her hand again and they paid for the two tickets.
They were just about to get on the ride when there was a sudden uproar. Sarah tried to not to be thankful. They paused and turned towards the direction of the furore, trying to see what the commotion was about. Screams echoed around the field, and people ran towards them. The Fair was in chaos. Sarah grabbed for Toby's hand again, her eyes automatically scanning around the surroundings.
There was a loud series of bangs and thuds, and the sound of male voices shouting coming closer.
Sarah pulled Toby away at a stumbling run, he was gazing open mouthed at something behind her. She whipped her head round, to see two things simultaneously.
First, she saw a huge black horse rearing and screaming at the men who were trying to stop it. It was heading towards them, galloping while its mouth foamed with mindless fury. A dark cloud hung about its head, there was something wrong in it.
Then, in the next split second, she saw, Toby was being followed by a small black shadow. It jogged with him, leaping jerkily with him across the ground. Oily and iridescent, it inspired fear in her she had never felt before.
The beast was nearing them.
Time slowed as she flung herself in front of Toby, pushing him out of danger.
She landed with a jolt on the grassy floor and as the huge hooves thudded nearer and nearer, and as Toby cried out, and as she saw her own shadow reach out a misty hand, she suddenly whispered soundlessly without quite knowing why "Jareth…"
And the world stopped dead.
I don't quite know where this came from, it's probably the most serious one I've started! Review please, I want to know opinions on this.
Notice: I'm sort of editing this at the moment, no drastic story changes, I'm just making it a little longer and (hopefully) better.