Something delightfully wicked dwells in the dark…
Click here for Chapter 2.
“We’re with you guys,” Jim whispers. I keep my eyes on the figures moving outside. I see Emma’s ears twitch as Jim’s whisper fades into the air. They are coming closer and appears to be sniffing the air, like guard dogs. With every sniff, they take a step forward.
“Jim?” says the voice. “It’s me, Matt.”
The creatures inch closer and closer to our door. I whimper softly in fright.
“Sshh. They can hear you.” Matt’s whisper is not as soft as it should be. Then Emma turns and stares at the glass panel, walking slowly towards me, bells jingling.
Emma and I are practically staring at each other through the glass panel, her eyes rolling and eyelids inside out. She still looks like her even with her mutated features – heart shaped face, long curly hair and her fringe covering one side of her face. Her acid green teeth are glowing together with the rest of its body, heating up the panel and fogging up the glass. A part of me regrets very much for not forcing her to stay with me that afternoon, but the other part feels utterly relieved to have something separating the two of us now.
A loud scream pierce the air from a distance. Emma lets out a snarl, head turning in the direction of the scream. The group of creatures thrashes away at top speed, looking for our saviours. Seizing the chance, Jim pulls me away from the door. I nearly trip when we hit the first step of the stairs. I climb the stairs at high speed, trembling, my only comfort being that the entire staircase building is in the dark. Much as I had wanted to save as many people as possible in the afternoon, my mind now wishes deeply no one would come into this part of the building, luring the glowing skeletons here.
“Come on, this floor’s entirely dark,” Matt whispers as we slow down to a stop.
He opens the door cautiously and sneaks out into the corridor. I follow closely behind, moving as quietly as possible through the darkness. Then there is a soft clinking of the keys and a room door opens. We dash inside and shuts the door, bolting it, heaving a sigh of relief as the lock clicks home.
“Keep the lights off. I’ve got a torchlight.”
Someone shoves something soft into my hand. Realising that it is a blanket, I instinctively stretch it out as I feel that someone is pulling on the other end.
“Get under it.”
I stoop down and crawl under the blanket. As soon as we are all seated on the floor, a torchlight clicks on. For the first time, Matt’s face came into view. He is clean shaven, in thick glasses and has a head of neatly combed, curly brown hair
“All of you alright?” he asked softly.
A nod in reply is only all I can manage.
“What are those things?” Jim asks. He is pale, hands trembling slightly as he holds on to the torchlight. Both of their faces are shining with sweat and I am sure so is mine. We are still panting slightly from the escape.
“I don’t know. But they’re like phantoms. You can hardly see them under the light. They are practically invisible in the day and you only know that they are there when they hit you.”
“Phantoms? You’ve seen these things before?” I ask in response to Matt’s answer.
“Yeah. They attacked the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering last week. I barely escaped.”
He draws the blanket closer and hug his backpack, which reminds me that I had left mine behind. “Listen, I am leaving before sunrise. Are you guys coming?”
“They’re out there. They’ll kill us.” Jim shakes his head firmly.
“We can’t stay here either. Before long we’ll run out of food. They’re bound to find us in here.”
I secretly agree with Jim. Matt’s room seems like the most ideal hiding place for now. If we keep our mouth shut and soundproof the place, those things will never know that we are here. Besides, it is dark out, we can’t even see where we were going. How are we going to make a successful escape attempt?
“Listen, Matt. They run at top speed, they come together in groups. If we get caught we’ll have no chance against them. How are we going to escape? The school is huge,” I pipe up, hoping to dissuade him from his ideas.
“Simple. We go underground.” Matt’s eyes glint as he suggests it, as though it is some ingenious plan.
“There is no ‘underground’ in school, Matt.”
“Yes there is.”
He reaches into his backpack and pulls out something. Laying it out in front of us, we all recognise it as the building’s map. But something seems to differ from the usual fire escape plans which we see stuck to the end of the staircases. It is littered with tiny dots and rectangular features. He stretches out s finger and points at a small little path.
“How is that underground?” I ask, confused.
“Of course it is. It’s the sewers.” He grins.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
When I was young Dad used to bring me to the playground. There we played with the swings and the see-saws. We built sandcastles with the small little pails Mum bought me. Every Saturday, the three of us would head down to the playground together and then some root beer float and ice cream waffles after. This routine only stopped when Mum died when I was seven. Dad said he could not bear to go back to that place. It turned out it was where he first met Mum.
Ever since then I would go down to the playgrounds alone and wished that someone would play with me. Sometimes I watched the other kids play catch and envied those girls who had their fathers to push the swings for them. One day when I was just done building my sandcastle, a little boy came over to ask me if I wanted to join them in a game. I agreed. I was to be blindfolded and be led to the slides to count to ten. Before I could finish counting, however, there were fits of laughter. I peeled off the blindfold to see my sandcastle crumbled to the ground. Broken. Gone. I ran home crying. I had never cried so hard before.
When Dad heard about it, he rushed down to the playground to look for the boys and yelled at them till they cried. He then brought me to have some root beer float and ice cream waffles. Since then, we strolled to the playground every night after dinner and built our own sandcastles.
“Didn’t you hate coming back here, Dad?” I remember myself asking as I piled more sand into the bucket.
“I realised this is a place for princesses and I was sent here to protect them,” he had replied.
My fingers tighten around the necklace which Dad had given me for my twenty-first birthday. It is rose gold in colour, the pendant in the shape of a tiara. I raise it up to my lips and kiss it. The moment the boys had decided to get out of this place, I had decided to go home to get Dad. We will flee this horrifying place together. We will be safe with each other.
“Done?” Matt asks, buckling up his backpack. Jim is emptying the noisy contents from his bag and wrapping smaller trinkets in socks and towels.
“Jim, we’re going into the sewers. These are only gonna get wet and heavy,” I point out. “Why are you bringing your hairspray?”
He holds up the metal Gatsby can and shakes it in my face. “I can’t live without this.” He wraps it up in a towel and stuffs it into his bag.
Jim hands me a Swiss knife. I swallow hard and click a blade open, then follow Matt to the door.
The corridor is dark once more and we walk in a single file, hand in hand. We make it past a turn and walk down the stairs. Everything is fraudulently peaceful. There isn’t a single sound except for the leaves rustling in the trees. Where has everyone else gone? Are there still people hiding in their own rooms? The walk feels like a tour round the haunted house in the theme park during the Halloween season. I had sprinted through the entire place, screaming, the moment I was scared by the first ‘ghost’. Evidently, I couldn’t do that here and I had never dreaded any walk this much before.
We reach the lobby safely after what seems like the longest time. In a distance the streetlamps are still on and we walk in that direction. Matt is guiding us based on what he remembers on his map. I feel a little more reassured from the dim light on the streets. We trek along the roadside for a while. Most of the lights in the dormitories had gone out. Finally we reach a cross junction where we take a right turn into the sports complex. A giant, round metal cover is nested in the middle of the grass patch not far from us.
“This is it. That’s the sewers below.” Matt kneels down on the metal cover which is dimly illuminated by a streetlamp nearby.
“How are we going to get in there?” I ask.
Matt reaches into his backpack and retrieves a mini crowbar. He starts prying at the lock buckling the metal cover to the ground. Jim opens his backpack, tosses out a few things and takes out a screwdriver to help.
CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!
The clanking of metal on metal fills the air and dread creeps down right to my fingertips. In no time at all, snarling joins in the ruckus the two boys are creating. It grows steadily louder and louder as the creatures nears us, flashing on and off between the intervals of the flickering of the streetlamps. One of them is wielding a bat. The group looks small, for some reason, just three of them. As they approach us, arms flailing, I scan the area to check for more attackers, but there is none. In fact, all of them are crowding around a large canal on the far side of the sports complex, ignoring us the entire time.
The three monsters reach the junction and comes thrashing towards us. Matt continues clanking down on the stubborn lock in desperation, but it doesn’t seem to be coming apart anytime soon.
“Uhh… Matt…” Jim begins, standing up with the screwdriver still in his hands.
“Should we just run for it? Hide somewhere?” I suggest, heart racing.
“Come on!” Matt growls, slamming the crowbar down on the lock in frustration. A dent appears and there is a glimmer of hope.
“Can we take them?” Jim asks. “Buy him more time.”
“How do we take them?” I question in reply, clicking the blade of my Swiss knife open and brace for the attack.
But there is no time to answer. The three monsters pounce as the streetlamp above us snuffs out. They hit us like meteors that had just come crashing into Earth. One of them pins me down to the ground and I lay there for a slight moment, completely winded by the impact. As soon as I muster enough strength to retaliate, I start jabbing my Swiss knife blindly. Black, hot substance oozed out of the open wounds. They drip onto my hand, which starts burning and smoking. Crying out in pain, I push the monster back as hard as possible. No sooner had I got up from the ground, it is already charging towards me. This time I slash it across its face and a scar glows red. It snarls, revealing its acid green teeth and lunges. Crouching down, I close my eyes in fright and raise my Swiss knife in defense. The next thing I know, there is loud sputtering. I open my eyes to see the monster’s face just inches from mine, the Swiss knife pierced through its decaying neck. I back away as I pull out my knife and it collapses onto the tarred floor, black bile forming a pool around its head. It stays there, snarling between gasps and sputters, but no longer coming for me.
Matt is still attempting to break the lock while Jim takes on the other two. I lunge for Emma, grabbing her hand which is swinging the bat. But the bat is glowing red hot from the heat Emma is emitting from her own skin and I let go the moment I lay my hands on it. I look at my hands which are already scalded red, skin peeling off. Emma changes her target and lunges at me. She swings her bat and bares her acid green teeth. She prepares to pounce.
Emma whirls around and meets a cloud of hairspray directed into her eyes. The other monster lies on the ground on its side, one leg twisted in a grotesque angle, black substance spilling out of its knee. Unfazed by the attack, Emma lunges at Jim once more, strangling him the second time in the night. The can of spray and screwdriver clatter to the ground as Emma lifts him of his feet. I scramble for them.
A bluish tinge is creeping up Jim’s face by the time I pick them up from the floor, the skin on his neck scalded red. I sneak up behind Emma and jabs the screwdriver through her. Like the others, black bile leaks out as she turns and snarls at me. She releases Jim, who crumples to the floor, choking. Dropping the screwdriver, I run towards Matt, who sticks out his leg. I leap over it, but a loud thud and snarl follows as I turn back to find Emma face down on the ground. Matt backs away hurriedly. Her bat rolls over to my feet and I pick it up.
“Get out of the way!” Jim hollers at us.
He is sprinting towards Emma, using the screwdriver to puncture a hole in the spray can as he comes. I swing the bat at her to buy him more time and she collapses to the side, scowling. He stuffs it under her where hot black goo is forming, burning off the tarred floor. Emma then attempts to get onto her feet, crouching over the floor on her hands and knees, spilling more black good onto the spray can as she does.
The can explodes at the temperature, blasting Emma backwards. She rolls over on the ground, her face ruined. Glowing red and with black bile trickling out of her nose and mouth at the same time. The explosion had blasted her torso apart. She gasps, her eyes resting on me and then she stops moving, dead. At the same time, a loud clank which announces that the lock has broken. Together we lift the metal cover and a foul stench overwhelms our nostrils.
Suddenly a noise comes from our right. Emma is moving again. I raise the bat to get ready in case she attacks. But she isn’t coming for us. She twitches and struggles as she got to her feet. Slowly, the glowing red disappears, revealing her in a burnt blue blazer and the jingling bangles. But her face remains distorted as she starts vomiting green liquid which burns a hole in the ground. She grows twice her size as her shoulders widen, her back hunching forwards. The blazer bursts apart as she is revealed naked, wrinkled gray, her back fused with what looks like a transparent tank of bubbling green chemical. She leers, showing those green teeth. Then she gives a great roar.
The instant the roar fills the air, loud retching and snarling erupt from the canal. The mob starts approaching us. Only Emma stands there, leering as she waits for her army to reach us.
“Jump in!” Matt yells.
I don’t need to be told twice. Taking a deep breath, I take a leap and feel Jim coming after me, his feet colliding hard into my shoulder. A loud yell and clang inform me that Matt has come in after us. I close my eyes and brace myself for the impact.
The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.
Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield
Edited by: Isaac Tan
Click here for Chapter 2.
Read Chapter 1 here.
I am not sure how I had lived past the night. I had fallen into an uneasy sleep, jolting awake throughout the night and hugging onto the tree branch for dear life. When morning finally arrives, I squint my eyes open, hoping that the monsters are gone.
“Shit,” I muttered. Where are they? Are they laying out a trap for me? Maybe they will come pouncing on me the moment I get out of the tree.
I sit up straight to take a good look around the place and wince. My muscles have strained from balancing on the tree branch overnight. I nearly cry out in pain but manage to stop myself by biting my lip. I scan the area very carefully; they do not seem to be at the carpark or near the studio, or in fact, anywhere near me at all.
A shadow flickers past the corner of my eye. Turning in the direction, I find myself staring at the other side of the studio. It is impossible to see what is going on but I can hear faint retching noises coming from that direction. I take a huge whiff of the air – it smells clean. I climb higher up the tree to get a better view. Then I spot them.
Prowling around the pond at the back of the studio, the monsters are splashing in the water, the others bending over the sides of it. They look a little paler than they did last night. I spot the Jessica the retching monster, her braid untidy and green things are smeared across her face. What are they doing?
But a part of me knows that there is no time to contemplate any further. This may as well be my only chance of escape. I climb down the tree as fast as my shaking limbs allow me, pick up my phone and sprint as fast as I can down the hill. I am sure I can hear or smell them if they ever decide to come after me. I run all the way to my dormitory room, turn the knob and find myself locked out. My keys to my room are lying at a corner in the dance studio where I had last left them and there is no way I am going to go back there to get them. Emma is my only hope. I hammer on the door, silently screaming for her to open up.
It worked. The door swings open and Emma comes out, looking annoyed. “Where were you the entire night!” she demands.
I dash into the room and starts grabbing my clothes out of the closet. “Em, we’ve got to leave. There is something in school. Like… like zombies or something. I saw them last night at the dance studio. They are my dance members. All of them. They killed Jessica and Tiffany and-” I go into a frenzy, running around the room and tossing things into my messenger bag. I reach into the fridge to retrieve my snackbars and Emma snatches them out of my hands.
“Wait, wait, wait. Hold it. What are you saying?”
“There. Are. Zombies!” I yell at her. “At the studio!”
Emma stares at me for a moment and break into fits of laughter. “Honestly. Tell me Jim put you up to acting. You are really good at it!”
“No. Em, listen. I saw them. Their eyelids are turned inside out, they retch and they stink. And I saw them crowd around Johanna and then a minute later she became just like them! They’re scavenging at the pond behind the studio when I escaped!”
“Alright, Clare. I’m going over to Terry’s room tonight to play mahjong. I’ll be back late so don’t bolt the door ok? Tell Jim that you’d like to go into acting. You’d be a good cast for him.”
“Get some sleep, Clare. See you later!”
She blows me a kiss and leaves the dormitory, the bangles on her hand jingling like Christmas bells. I stare after her in utter disbelief. Who will possibly listen to me? I think I sound crazy myself. I wish what I had seen last night isn’t true, yet I can’t sit here doing nothing. I’ve got to warn people, get them to escape from this place as fast as they can.
I change into a plain shirt, denim shorts and put on a coat, anything that is light and good for running. I clean up my makeup and pack all the essentials into the messenger bag. Then, I set out of the dormitory with it slung across my chest in case I need to make a quick escape. I knock on the door to my left. It bursts open and Grouchy Grace scowls at me.
“Grace! You’ve got to leave this place! I was at the dance studio last night and there were zombies! I saw them with my very own eyes! You-”
“Are you nuts?”
“You sound like one.”
And the door slams in my face. I spend the whole afternoon knocking on doors, trying to convince people of what I had witnessed last night, but almost everyone reacts in the same way as Grace did. This isn’t working out well at all, and I finally head back to my room. If there is any one person in the world who will believe me without a doubt, it will be Dad. I pick up my phone, hand poised to call Dad and realises for the first time in the day it had gone out, cracked across the screen. “NO!” I scream, hurling the phone across the room before crawling to a corner and pulling a blanket over my head. I sit there for a long time before breaking down, shaking and crying, until I fall asleep.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
I am sitting on the bus, looking out of the window with Dad beside me. Oddly enough, we are in a theme park. He points out several landscapes to me: the Jungle House, the Mummy ride, the ferris wheel…
“Let’s take the Mummy ride, Clare,” he says, his warm brown eyes glinting mischievously.
“No, Dad. I’m scared!”
He puts his left arm over my shoulder and gives it a little squeeze.
“You can do it, Clare.”
“No I won’t! It’s scary!” I bawl and, hopping off the bus, Dad calling after me.
I refuse to turn back, and he continues.
“Clare!” This time the voice sounds different. Who is it?
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Something is rattling. What is it? I open my eyes but it is pitched black. I can hardly see anything. It is warm and perspiration has stained the back of my shirt wet. The bus in the theme park can certainly do with a little air-conditioning. I struggle in discomfort for a while before realising that something is covering me.
“Clare Sim!” the voice shakes me out of my stupor, jolting me to my senses.
I scramble to my feet, the blanket falling to the ground. Switch, switch, where is the switch? The light click on the moment my fingers hit the socket and light floods the room. I fumble for my watch. It is already nine in the evening. The door shakes as someone hammers on it, the lock rattling. I look through the peephole and standing on the other side of my door is a red-faced Jim. Quickly, I let him in.
“Didn’t I tell you I needed you at the rehearsals? What were you doing? Sleeping in here all day?” he bellows the moment he enters, fuming.
“You don’t have to come for rehearsals anymore! I’ll get someone else to do it!” His voice could have woken the entire building.
“Jim, please, keep your voice down and let me explain,” I plead, closing the door. Suddenly, Emma thrusts the door open, knocking me aside. Her ponytail is in a mess and blood is staining the blue blazer she is wearing. Something brown drips down her face as she collapses onto Jim.
“Oh my god, get off me!” Jim shouts, his eyes wide and backing away. Emma falls to the floor.
“Em!” I cry, squatting down next to her. “What happened?”
I rest my hands on her shoulders in an attempt to help her up. A scalding sensation spread through the tips of my fingers and I am forced to let go. My palms have started smoking, scalded pink. Emma then turns to face me, her eyes bloodshot and rolling to the back of her head.
“Shit.” I back away from her. “No…”
But something seems strange. It isn’t like what I had seen last night: Emma is fading away. “Em?” I whispered. “Em?”
She looks directly into my eyes, hers growing fainter and fainter. Her lips are turning inside out and so is her nose. The sight is grotesque but I can’t look away. “Help me,” she gasps softly, clutching her chest. Tears stream down her cheeks as she starts gasping for air and then… She is gone.
I stare at Jim, praying hard that he knows what is going on, but he looks just as shocked and as speechless as I am. “Em?” I whispers as loudly as I dare. Jim backs away from the spot where Emma had vanished and hit the mirror. It topples with a loud clang and shatters into pieces.
It happened very quickly. Within a split second, Jim turns stiff, flies through the air and hits my bed. He coughs, but before he can stand up, his hands fly to his sides, pinned by something none of us can see. He gasps, sputters and chokes. In no time at all, smoke starts rising from his neck and a burn starts spreading, cooking his skin red raw and a shape of a human hand appears on his neck. Desperate, I swing around and grab the nearest weapon I can find – Emma’s softball bat.
“Jim!” I yell. “Duck!”
I swing the bat, trying to estimate where is attacker is. It connects with something hard, but before I can swing it back, something grabs onto it and Jim falls back down to my bed, groaning in pain. The bat pauses momentarily in mid air, then swings down hard. It misses me as I duck. With a loud snarl and the jingling of bells, the bat swings downwards once more and this time it whacks me straight across my stomach. I fall to the floor, sputtering and coughing. Before I can react, the bat swings again. This time it misses as I find myself dragged across the floor. Jim pulls me up to my feet and we head straight for the door.
The corridor is pitched black and the lamps along the corridor are flickering on and off. The entire building is bathed in darkness. But the bat comes swinging at us again and we enter the corridor. We back to the railings and watch as the bat first slides out of the room and then a glowing, fiery skeleton appears, wielding the bat and vanishing in and out in tandem with the flickering lights.
“ARGHHHH‼!” Jim and I scream. But we stop abruptly as a loud thundering from our left cues us to run down the corridor for our dear lives.
For a large group of fiery skeletons are quickly approaching us, arms flailing and snarling. The creature at my doorstep swings its bat and leers at us sinisterly, revealing acid green teeth.
“THERE!” I yell at Jim. We take a left turn, but I have no idea where we are going to hide. Emma had said that she would be going to Terry’s room for a game, which means that the whole block has probably already been infiltrated. Where do we go from here?
“Here,” Jim pants, pulling my sleeve. I follow without argument.
He leads me round the nearest corner. The lights in this corridor have completely gone out. Swiftly, he pulls me through the door of a staircase landing and we duck below the glass panel, our backs pressing hard against the door in case they push through. When I have regained my breath, I sneak a look through the tiny glass panel at the side of the door. I watch them approach, turn round the corner and very suddenly, the snarling stops. But like their retching cousins, they dwell near where they had last seen us, glowing. We are trapped in. There is no way we could get out from here when they are right outside our door and they can definitely hear us going up the steps.
“Dammit,” I swear softly.
“Who’s there?” a voice replies, trembling. “Beware, I’m armed.”
I turn to look at Jim, alarmed. Someone is sharing our hiding place.
The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.
Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield
Edited by: Isaac Tan
Read Chapter 1 here.
My first chapter featured on NFFTY! I feel so blessed to have a homie so supportive of my writing, encouraging me even when she is miles away and 15 hours apart! THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE WRITEUP HOMIE! MUACKS! Can’t wait for our Skype date on Tuesday!
Ms. Auby Sparksfield
I live on a tropical island called Spearingo Islands, a nation made up of three small pieces of land near the equator. We are governed by democracy, constantly reminded to embrace the diversity of colours which makes us unique. Or… well, what we think made us unique. We walk down the streets everyday of our lives, looking at people coming from different backgrounds, having migrated here to earn a living, to raise the family members they loved. In school I often look at the students from different countries, wondering how it is like to leave home for a few months or even a few years. Don’t they ever miss their families? I can’t live past a week without Dad.
Dad has been my only childhood hero, even till today. I never knew who else existed in my family and I have never met a distant relative before at all. Dad is the only one who brought me up. I have a dream of starting a business for him. He will be the boss and I will be his assistant. That sounds like a pretty good idea, especially since Dad wants to start his own coffeeshop. Whenever he took me out to play, we’d race to see who could climb trees the fastest. He always lets me win. He was a good cook too and he was excellent at perfecting half-boiled eggs, often served with a steaming cup of tea or coffee and some buttered toast. That was my breakfast every morning ever since I could remember. In fact I need to have this breakfast every morning together with Dad before he heads off to work and I, to school.
I attend the Spearingo National College, the first college set up on the island by a few Chinese businessmen. On Spearingo Islands, the first twenty years of our lives are pretty much set. After we pass the stage of useless bawling baby dolls, we have to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic. Although the government makes compulsory education up to the age of twelve, the society makes it unavoidable for us to get our college degrees before we can get a decent job. I study English, although I ain’t completely sure that it can give me a head start in starting a business for Dad. But my arithmetic and accounting scores aren’t good enough to get me into the business school. I had to make do with what I have and perhaps, get a good enough score to transfer. Here, I became a playwright for my school’s drama club last year, headed by a tyrannical president who is currently screaming my name from the back of the corridor right now.
“Hey Clare!” This is perhaps the fifth time he is calling me and I wonder if he has the brains to realise that I am ignoring him on purpose. “Clare Sim!”
A hard smack comes down on my shoulder. My backpack slides and hits the floor.
“Oi!” I yell, turning to find myself staring into the eager brown eyes of his.
“Didn’t you hear me call out to you?” Jim asks, his hands smoothing out his bleached blonde faux hawk.
“Yes.” I sniff. “Make it quick.”
“We need you at the rehearsals tomorrow.”
“You want me at the rehearsals tomorrow,” I correct him. “Jim, we’ve had this conversation before. I sit there for hours doing nothing! I do not have to be there!”
“And I have said this many times, we need the opinion of the scriptwriter!”
“And tell me when have you listened to anything I’ve said?” I roll my eyes, walking away from him. “Go ahead with whatever you want. Leave me alone!”
“You’d better come if you want your points to stay on in the halls!”
In Spearingo National College, we have to earn points in order to qualify for the dormitories. These points come from being involved in school activities. Theatre is one of mine and dance is another. I can earn points for both, but because Jim has been forcing me to go for theatre rehearsals, I hardly have the time to go for dance practices and performances and hence can barely earn points from dance. What he said is true and we both know it. Unwilling to acknowledge it, I look straight and stalk off.
“Seven tomorrow night!” he calls after me.
I let my Converse sneakers hit the floor as hard as they can with every step, blowing my bangs out of my eyes as I walk. I have a report due on Thursday, in two days’ time, dance practice tonight and have to go for rehearsals tomorrow. Darn it. I may have to skip some sleep tonight. Maybe I can start with the report in one of the lectures later.
The day whirls by and I have no idea where all the time has gone. In no time at all I am already warming up in the school’s dance studio and have barely made any progress on the report. It is already eight in the evening and I have not even had dinner. Only two other girls are in the dance studio with me and the rest are already very late.
“Where are they?” Jessica asks, her arms outstretched to braid her hair down her back.
I snigger as I stretch, checking out my short brown hair in the mirror. Jessica always has the shrill in her voice which makes her sound like she has an invisible tank of helium on her back and she breathes through it permanently. She also has rainbow and blonde streaks in her hair which makes her look like the Nyaan Cat pelting through space whenever she prances around the room.
The short reply comes from Tiffany, a petite girl with a gentle face. When she smiles, dimples appear on her cheeks. She is a pretty quiet girl and loves to sit in one corner to read.
Fifteen minutes later we are restless. I try to make a call to our dance president but there is no reception in my cell phone. Annoyed, I bring my phone out of the dance studio. The studio is up on a small, isolated hill away from the main buildings of the school. Usually, we have to climb up a steep slope to get there, or else we can hitch a ride with any of the dance members who drives. Normally, they park their cars at the back of the studio but there are no cars in sight today. The streetlamps are flickering dim for some reason and there is still no signal. I walk further down the slope, hoping to get a stronger signal strength as I near the main buildings.
The wind blows and I draw my jacket closer. It is getting late, and cold. I could have showered and be doing my report in my room, probably sharing a packet of prawn crackers with my roommate, Emma. I walk, blowing bangs out of my eyes again and muttering things under my breath.
“What is this? Smart phone my ass. No signal half the time… It’s already twenty minutes past eight… What’s the point of practicing now when it’s so late already. I could be-”
I stop short, goosebumps erupting on my skin. The scream had come from somewhere behind me, from the dance studio. I am already halfway down the hill and I can’t see what is going on up there. I am pretty sure from that high-pitched quality of the scream that it belongs to Jessica. The studio lamp has gone out and as I stare at the studio, contemplating what to do, the streetlamps around me snuff out.
I swallow hard and bite my lip. The bangs fall back into place, poking my eyes but I leave them there. There is no one around me to accompany me back up that hill to the studio. My belongings are still in there, but at least I have my phone with me. Should I run? But Jessica sounded like she needed help. I can’t leave her there. What happened to Tiffany? Why didn’t she come running out to get me?
My thoughts sway from them to the blinking lights of the main buildings in the distance. Something is very wrong. I creep back up the hill as slowly as I can until I hear a low, retching noise. A strong stench reaches my nostrils. It smells terribly like vomit. The air now has a stinging quality which prickles my skin. I zip up my jacket and advance up the slope until I hear the shuffling of feet.
I squint my eyes to look into the darkness ahead of me. There are shadows and it seems like there is a crowd in the dance studio. But no one has come up the slope when I am out there and it is the only way in. Unless, of course, it is a prank?
I slow down as I near the studio, breathing heavily and sweating in this cool night. There is a crack as my Converse stepped on a small, dried branch on the tarred floor.
The shadows in the room stop moving for a second. Then another loud retching startles the entire crowd to move in my direction, the foul smell growing stronger. Hastily, I scramble up the nearest tree I can find, thankful for the practice Dad had put me through when I was little. I climb past the first branch, the second and up the third.
A strange horde of human-like creatures charge towards where I had stepped on the branch, their arms flailing. What exactly are those things? I squint hard and hold my breath. Whatever those shadows are, I am certain they aren’t friendly. They came to an abrupt stop around the branch, their retching growing slower, their arms stop flailing. They lumber around the area slowly. I don’t want to get down from the tree with them around, but how long do I have to wait till they are gone?
A loud revving of engine pierce through the silent night, the beams from the headlamps appeared up the slope. A red convertible shot uphill and slowed to a stop, its hood down. It is Johanna, our dance president. Everything in the darkness lights up and the sight that greets me nearly throws me out of my hiding place.
The shadows belong to a mob of decaying humans, their skin wrinkled grey and rotting. They retch constantly and their eyelids, noses and lips are turned inside out. Their eyeballs roll to the back of their eyes and saliva drip out of their mouths. I stuff my fist in my mouth to stop myself from screaming, but my cell phone fall out of my hands and tumble down the tree.
I am sure those repulsive monsters would have heard it, but they are already charging towards the car in a stampede, arms thrashing. Two others thunder out from the studio to join the mob – one of them petite and the other has rainbow hair braided down its back.
“No way,” I whisper as I freeze on the spot, petrified.
I watch as the foul creatures drag my screaming dance president out of the car and crowd around her. I can slowly make out the distinctive features of each and every one of my dance troupe. What thefuck happened?
Endless shrieks of pain broke the chilled silence of the night. I search my mind furiously to think of a way to help Johanna, but I am seriously outnumbered and they are too fast. What are they doing to her?
Abruptly, the chaos stops and the shrieking dies down, just as quickly as it had come. The creatures began lumbering around as though nothing had happened. Shifting out of the way of the headlamps, they linger around in the shadows. Johanna is lying on the floor, bloodied, panting, and shaking. About a minute later, she starts retching: once, twice and then a third time. Her cherubic features begins distorting as her eyelids, nose and lips turn inside out. Then the transformation stops. She lies on the spot, panting and retching for a few seconds, then she, too, gets up and creeps into the shadows.
I remove my fist from my mouth and notice that, for the first time, tears are streaming down my cheeks, smearing my makeup. Clinging onto the tree branch, I pray for it to hold my weight until morning when I am sure they will be gone. There is no way for me to check for the time undetected when my phone is tucked under the tree. But deducing from when I had last checked, I am sure that the night is still early. Too early.
Written by: Ms. Auby Sparksfield
Edited by: Isaac Tan
The Final Evolution © 2013 by Auby Sparksfield. All rights reserved.
View previews here.
I am so excited! I have finally completed my mini novella (it is so short that it isn’t even a novella, it’s a mini novella)! It is the first ever completed novella I have ever written! The book, if you may allow me to call it, is in its final stages of proofreading. Looks like the first chapter can be released on 31st October 2013 (Happy Halloween), and every chapter on every Friday night!
For those who don’t know, the story is about a zombie apocalypse that takes place in Spearingo Islands. College undergraduate Clare first encounters them in school, and after narrow escape, she sets out to look for her father.
I will not be releasing the entire mini novella on my WordPress website, however. If you wish to read the entire book, fill in the form below and I will email you a PDF copy (The full mini novella will only be ready by December, hopefully earlier, though)! Feel free to send me feedback on the novella via the form too!
Thank you, readers, for the support over the years. Without your comments, feedback and encouragement, I would not have embarked on this journey. Hope you guys like the story!
Ms. Auby Sparksfield
P.S: You can read a preview of The Final Evolution here.