By Chelsea Walker (Sun Valley High School)
All over the ground, orange and red leaves scattered as Emma quickly ran. Her heart raced in unison with her feet, pounding against the ground. She could feel the pull behind, of a dark power breaking free, hidden deep within the woods. It reached for her, trying to take her away. Faster and faster she went, looking for the path she needed. There was nothing to be seen though, just the massive trees which lined the pathway.
I have to keep running, Emma thought to herself. She tried to encourage her worn down body.
The sun was slowly setting beneath the horizon, casting an eerie purple shine across the land. With the disappearing light, it became harder to see the narrow path she was running. Emma knew Cedro would be waiting for her, wondering where she could’ve gone. He would be worried, if she didn’t make it back before complete darkness, that Hunters would get her. Yet the path, one she had travelled so many times before, seemed to disappear.
Emma’s legs grew weary, heavy with all the effort of constant running. She began to slow down, despite her natural instinct to keep moving.
“Emma,” she heard Cedro’s voice call way out in the distance, she could barely hear him.
“Cedro,” she called back, hoping he could hear her too, but he didn’t respond.
The silence of the woods made her nervous, as she came to a complete stop. This forest was not the same place at night it was by day. She pushed her way off of the path, instead of standing like open prey in the middle. Cedro would be along soon, until then she had to hide. Fallen trees made it hard to move around, but also created a place to hide. Underneath one of these giants, Emma tried to wedge herself from sight. Trees and bushes tugged at her ponytail. Her palms were bleeding, cut and scratched from crawling on the ground.
Time seemed to come to a standstill as she waited. The sun continued to move slowly, the purple light of dusk growing deeper and deeper. She wondered if she would ever go home. For weeks she had been stranded in this strange world, hunted by the evil beasts that lived in the dark.
Emma remembered the day when she discovered the door. It was any other day, as she walked home from school, taking a shortcut through the woods. Only that day, Emma had stumbled upon a mystical door. She could picture it in her mind; there was the arch shape of the frame, built into the brown earth around it. Then there was the aged wooden handle, which had felt smooth in her hand, despite its appearances. Once she had opened it, Emma was sucked into a world full of secrets, and powers she would never comprehend.
The door was the only way out. Emma had to find it.
“Emma,” Cedro’s voice was much closer.
“I’m here, I’m here,” she practically sprinted back out onto the path. Emma was desperate to see Cedro again, to not be alone. When she appeared on the path, she instantly felt isolated. It was dark now, the sun having finally fallen to rest, while she was hidden. There was no Cedro in sight. Emma listened in vain for any sound of Cedro, of his feet walking across the leaves. She knew she wouldn’t though; his elfin feet made no noise as he trotted across the earth.
Emma strained her eyes, looking through the darkness up the path. Suddenly, a faint white light began to illuminate the darkness. It was Cedro, his ivory skin shining. This was a side effect of his ancient ancestors’ power.
Cedro was descended from an ancient elfin race. It became clear, as Emma watched him come down the path, why they were envied for their beauty. He was tall, with a thin structure, even in his face. His bright green eyes, specked with golden flakes, shone out almost as bright as his skin. When Emma had asked about his skin, he told her it was because of his blood. It was the trait that had marked him as one of the first elfin families, and now as the last. Cedro’s kind had all been destroyed by the darkness.
“Emma,” he addressed her in a stern tone, “I told you not to go far.”
Despite his anger, Emma felt an immediate sense of relief as he approached. She could see the anger in his large, deep set eyes when he stopped in front of her. It was his worst fear, losing her, after he had sworn to protect her from the Hunters. They were creatures, born of the darkness, which destroyed anything that entered the land. Once before it had been a place for mystical creatures, until the Hunters came. Then, by using the door, the creatures escaped into Emma’s world. There, they became the source of many different legends. Eventually they were told as children’s stories.
“I’m sorry,” Emma said under her breath, trying to break the silence.
“We need to keep looking,” Cedro said, “the door only opens tonight. Then it is closed for months, and you’ll be stuck here.”
“But we haven’t found it yet,” Emma’s heart sank as she spoke. It would mean a long night running through the woods, placing both her and Cedro in horrible danger.
The Hunters would be out in huge packs tonight. From a distance they appeared to be nothing but oversized bears. Up close, they looked like demons. They were completely black, with huge twisted horns on each side of their large heads. This was what waited in the dark.
As they moved, Cedro leading, Emma thought about when he had first found her. It was his duty, as the last ancient elf, to guard the land and keep the Hunters inside it. His sword, forged hundreds of years before, was the only thing that could pierce a Hunter’s skin. Emma, by mere chance, had stumbled upon the door to their world that fateful day. When she entered, they immediately crept on her in the night. It was Cedro, with his sword that saved her life and took her in. He promised that very night to get her back home.
“Stay close,” Cedro’s quite voice broke her reverie.
After a couple more yards, he suddenly stopped. He placed his hand on his sword, before breaking through the trees. They had stumbled upon a meadow, as large as a football field. Emma wondered why they had never found it before. Here, the moonlight was broken by trees, and helped light their surroundings along with Cedro’s skin.
Emma followed Cedro toward the center of the meadow, when she suddenly saw it. Across the field, at the far end, a small beacon of light shined yellow.
“Look,” she said, nudging Cedro’s arm. It stood out, the light, against the blackness of the forest. Whatever it was appeared to be just on the edge.
“Let’s go,” Emma’s excitement took over. She felt drawn towards it.
“Hold on,” Cedro pulled on her arm, “we have no idea what that thing is.” He kept his hand on her, keeping her in place. Emma wanted to run towards it. She couldn’t understand why Cedro wasn’t as curious as her.
“We need to check it out,” Emma tried to reason; “it could be something that will help us.”
Cedro didn’t disagree, but he made Emma stay next to his side as they walked slowly across the meadow. Suddenly, Emma instantly recognized the door, the yellow light escaping from its cracks. Her heart leaped with joy, and without thought she began to sprint towards it.
“STOP,” shouted Cedro, but it was too late. Emma was thinking about home, family and friends. Mostly, Emma thought about being away from the darkness.
Suddenly, a cold breeze blew, and the darkness around Emma began to move. The entire atmosphere began to change. She stopped dead in her tracks, a little more than a yard from the door. A horrible, fierce cry broke the night.
Emma quickly turned around, sprinting with all her strength back to Cedro. He began to move towards her, when the Hunter appeared between them. It broke apart from the darkness, appearing as if from thin air. The Hunter glanced first at Cedro, his sword in hand, and then Emma who was frozen with fear a few feet away. It was deciding who to kill first.
The huge black beast rolled onto its hind legs, leaping through the air. Emma tried to move, but her reflexes weren’t quick enough. It flew right above her, the sheer force throwing her onto her back, as its huge black paws landed on either side of her head. One paw was the size of her entire body. Emma let out a scream; its bare teeth were inches from her face.
Cedro ran after it, yelling Emma’s name out. He leaped with all his strength, and thrust the sword into the creature. It let out a bloodcurdling scream. To Emma, it sounded like a train slamming on its breaks. The Hunter shook violently, until Cedro was thrown off. He landed on the ground next to Emma, as the animal stumbled a few feet back.
“Get up,” Cedro grunted, climbing quickly back onto his feet. In seconds he grabbed Emma by the hand, taking off for the door. As Cedro approached, the door began to creak open, the yellow light grew.
The Hunter cried again, a last call for its pack. Emma could hear the darkness breaking with their movements. Cedro sped up, dragging Emma behind him the last couple feet. With his free hand, he grabbed the handle and yanked the door open. A burst of yellow light shone through, pushing the darkness back. It caused the Hunters to yelp in unison.
“Don’t look back,” Cedro whispered into Emma’s ear, as he pushed her over the threshold.
Emma had no time to think, or say goodbye to the one who saved her life.
A powerful gust of wind slammed the door shut behind her. She landed roughly on her hands and knees, almost tumbling forward. The bright sunlight caused Emma’s eyes to burn as she attempted to move to her feet. When her eyes finally did open, Emma frantically looked for the door. Only all she saw was a strangely familiar scene. The woods she travelled to and from school in. Where the door had once been, was nothing but a wall of dirt, a simple piece of earth. Cedro, the Hunters, and the darkness were all gone. Still, Emma felt their presence lying beneath her own feet.