The first brave young writer to share their work with the Muse is Alzrith, who wrote this story for the Henrietta Branford competition inspired by an opening set by last year’s Branford Boase winning author BR Collins.
It’s freezing cold in the bus shelter, and there’s only just enough light from the streetlamps to see Rachel’s face. She’s squinting past me, biting her lip.
I've had enough,’ I say. ‘My Mum’ll kill me if she notices I’m not in bed.’
Rachel frowns and ignores me.
‘I can’t believe I agreed to come,’ I say. ‘Nothing is going to happen. This is so stu—’
‘Shut up!’ She shoves an elbow into my ribs and leans forward, staring. From the note in her voice I can tell she’s seen something. I follow her gaze, but all I can see is shadows.
Rachel looks round at me. ‘Ready?’
I take a deep breath. Suddenly my heart is beating too fast.
‘Ready,’ I say.
I didn’t know why I said I was ready. But Rachel grabbed my arm and pulled me to the other side of street – which was empty from vehicles – where the trees’ shadows swallowed us slowly. The streetlights were dimming behind us as leaves and twigs crunched under our shoes. My hands began to sweat.
This was crazy. I was forced to come because Rachel threatened to tell Mum I was flunking Geometry…that stupid subject! But the darkness formed different hallucinations in my mind.
Finally, I found my own force to pull back from Rachel’s grip and came to a halt. ‘You don’t want to believe those childish tales, do you?’ I asked, panting.
Little amount of moonlight passed through umbrella of leaves above enabled me to see faintly Rachel’s frown that creased her forehead. ‘Don’t tell me you’re scared,’ she said.
‘I’m not! I just… you see, the night’s deep and I’m kinda sleepy. We better go home.’
‘No excuses.’ She grabbed my arm again. ‘We’re going to see ourselves if those childish tales are true or not. Come on, if you don’t want me to tell your Mum.’
‘Who the heck’s the source of that tale?’ I demanded, suddenly sweating. Rachel just dragged me along without knowing much about her plan.
‘Kevin and Leo. Remember those boastful storytellers?’
‘Who’d forget them? Remember their last story? It was about—’
Rachel cut me off with her warning look. ‘Don’t remind me that failure!’
I was hopeless. I knew how Rachel was obsessed in any kinds of tales that wandered in all corners of school. She’d boasted some of them true while others were left unfolded. But this was the second time she forced me along with her – the first time was a failure and I didn’t want talking about it - though she knew I’d be no use... or maybe she wanted a witness for her success.
'No turning back now,’ she said with a tone of finality as she pulled me deeper into the woods and darkness. I felt my mouth dumb that I couldn’t protest. Kevin and Leo had invented another story about wandering bloody-white-ladies in some part in these woods. I didn’t know how much deal would it cost Rachel to find the bloody-white-ladies but somehow I adored her braveness. She wasn’t like me, a boy, who easily got scared.
We got too deep now and I was trembling. That was it. Being scared left me dumbfounded, if not fainted. Rachel was beginning to relax her grip when an owl’s hoot tensed me up. I looked round as I heard soft rustles behind me. Rachel’s grip went alarmingly tight.
'This is it. Leo and Kevin told me that the first sign of bloody-white-ladies’ show up was the owl’s hoot,’ she whispered and I saw her teeth flashed white in the gloom. ‘We’ve got to wait. By the way, I brought my camera,’ she tapped a small bag attached on a thick belt around her waist. I noticed it only now. ‘just in case we’re lucky enough to meet those ladies.’
Lucky? I thought not as a sudden loud rustle gave my heart a great failure and, hardly daring to believe, out of the shadows from the trees around us, emerged a glowing white curtain that floated right on front of us! No, my eyes deceived me. It wasn’t a curtain but a gown billowing in the wind, tattered in several places and smeared with blood on hems and sleeves. I looked slowly up to meet that dark waterfall that covered its face but I glimpsed glowing yellow eyes behind that waterfall.
I felt Rachel behind me, her hand holding camera trembled. My voice was lost…I couldn’t scream. Luckily, Rachel did it for me.
‘Run!’ she shouted, seized my arm, and pulled me into nowhere, clutching on one hand the camera.
There was only an instant to think as another glowing-white-bloody-lady floated ahead of us. We turned around to find the first bloody-white-lady whom we thought we escaped. I didn’t know what to be scared about—their horrible faces or I and Rachel’s doom.
Rachel raised her camera. Her fingers trembled that she didn’t know where the capture-button was. A wind blew, strong enough to knock her camera out her hand and broke on the ground. The two ladies smiled.
Trembling equally, I went to Rachel’s back to cover myself from those faces. But she also went to my back to take cover. I thought you were brave, I wanted to say…but not this time. My heart was beating too fast again.
The two ladies floated lazily towards us, trapping us in the middle. Rachel let out a short scream before she fell unconscious. I caught her in my arms, crouched, and closed my eyes tightly…
Laughter floated in the air and reached my ears. They weren’t the same laughter I expected from the ladies, after all, but mocking laughter I was sure where were from.
I opened my eyes only to find the place where Rachel and I were was lit with huge flashlights hanging above the low sturdy branches. The two ladies revealed the faces of the class’ storytellers no other than Leo and Kevin, their dark wigs in their arms. They were suspended in the midair by some ropes attached around their waists.
'Did you see that? They almost believe it!’ Kevin said, laughing.
Then there were my classmates – probably the storytellers’ accomplices to set up this dreadful night – too, roaring with laughter.
‘How did you do that?’ I demanded, annoyed. Rachel was still unconscious.
‘With help from the whole class, of course!’ replied Leo. ‘Especially from you two and with some glow-in-the-dark costumes. Aw, you look really meant for each other, Lime!’
I blushed but didn’t let Rachel go from my embrace. The exhausted night continued until the next morning when Mum decreased my usual allowance by almost seventy-five percent for catching my bed empty. Maybe this was the consequence I should be ready about.
Enjoyed this story? Let Alzrith know by leaving a comment below.
Of course most stories benefit from some editing, so in the next post the Muse will use his sparkly horn on “Tricked” to show you the sort of thing that happens before your work gets published…