It was cold, the floor was always cold. Bare foot or with socks. The coldness seemed to spread with each step, like walking on ice. But it didn’t matter so much tonight.
He flung the duvet back and they woke with a start, their eyes suddenly ablaze.
“Is it time?” they asked, sitting up and pushing back into the deep plush pillows.
“It is, let’s go.” He spoke, calmly but with an urgency.
They swivelled in the bed, pushing their legs out and jumping into the situation. He watched them, agile and prepared, they’d practised this of course. How many times, twenty, thirty? Not enough, he knew that. Time was the essence here.
The darkness leaked inside the room like a can of oil, the little light he carried seemed to dismal in the overwhelm, but it did its job, and he shone the light now in their direction as they pulled on their shoes.
No time to change, just the shoes; they would be running of course.
“Ready, let’s go. Do you have…?” But they had spotted the box on the side near to him.
“Got it.” He said, and he picked the box up now and they both raced out of the bedroom.
He noticed the clock on the landing as they ran down the stairs, in the gloom he could still make out the hands of the grandfather clock ticking regimentally around and around. The clock had survived so much, seen so much. Been restored after many years hidden away from the Nazis, the greedy family members and the corrosion of time itself. Now it stood in full glory on the landing in their house, signalling the time for all who dwelt inside. Now it confessed the time to be two thirty in the morning. Time to move.
They raced down the stairs and towards the back of the house, crashing through the door quickly, not minding it was unlocked. They never did lock the doors; the danger did not lie there. They knew where horror lived.
In their bed clothes they raced, out into the air which was cold on their skin. No moon tonight, or if there were it was hidden behind the huge puffs of clouds that blanketed the sky. It made the night heavy, and they could feel it press upon them as they found themselves into the trees that began the woods at the rear of their house. No neighbours, they were too far away from them. The nearest house was three miles towards Grankvort, and that was in good weather. They made it this way, they needed the space and the separation from others.
The pine trees were close together, and sharp. They felt the needles as they sped through, though thankful for the running shoes which kept the rocks and fallen needles at bay. The little light he carried clung on to life in the face of the breath of the world which threatened to extinguish it.
“Wait!” they said, holding up their hand and pulling him to a stop.
He heard it then too, the sound of music off in the distance.
“There shouldn’t be anyone around, I don’t think it will work with others near.” They said.
He looked around himself, trying to locate the source of the sound in the claustrophobic woods. He saw it then, a tiny glow moving through the trees, like a little firefly.
“There!” he said, and they turned to look also.
“Damn.” They replied, hurrying off without warning towards the light. He moved on quickly too, following them.
“What can we do?” He asked, catching himself on the trees.
“They will have to join us, there’s no time.” They said, seeming to glide through the thicket effortlessly.
As they got closer, they could hear the sound clearer now, the sound of orchestral music drifting outwards, hauntingly. Then he spotted the woman. She was tall, almost as tall as he, with a hood covering her head. He could see her hair tumbling out of the dark hood, like spilt gold leaking from a black lake. She was moving slowly, as if unsure of which way to go herself when they both suddenly burst out into her path, and she turned with surprise.
“Oh!” She exclaimed, but not out of fear. Almost as if she expected someone, but not so suddenly.
“What are you doing?” They asked her suddenly, he held the light up to her face and she drew back her hood in politeness.
“I’m sorry, is this your land?” She returned back.
“What are you doing here?” they asked again, ignoring her own question. The woman paused before answering which agitated them.
“Well!?” They asked, turning to him. “There’s no time for this.”
“I’m just passing through, please I don’t mean any harm.” The woman replied with a smile.
“It doesn’t matter, come along; you’re involved now.” And with that, they took her hand and pulled her off into the trees, running once more.
“Wait, what is going on….” The woman cried but was pulled on through, with the branches smacking her as they sped.
He followed on, trying to keep up. He should be leading he knew, having the light in hand; but they sped on at such a speed he had to double his efforts to stay with them.
They burst forth suddenly out of the trees, and he knew they had made it, and quickly too despite the stop with the woman. She now was hunched over, trying to catch her breath.
They stood by the edge of a ravine; the darkness below threatened an unknown demise, but he knew it was not that deep. He had climbed it of course, they had checked out all the areas near to them, and he knew the floor of the ravine was spongy and mossy. The rocks around them jutted upwards, like grey teeth, and he went across to one now and placed the box on top.
“How long?” they asked him, he looked at his watch. They had two minutes left.
“Two.” He said, and they smiled back. He could see the light above them now, streaming down like a dull torch from the sky.
“Wonderful, even though we’ve got a passenger.” They both looked at the woman now who stared back. She was neither scared nor angry at them, she merely stood there like a statue waiting for something to happen.
“Do you know what this is?” they asked the woman, pointing to the box on the rock.
She peered over, looking at the box which now began to hiss and glow with a dull light, its own reaching upwards.
“I’m not sure this is the right thing to do you know.” She said, almost with a knowing.
He stared at her, confused. The box had begun to come to life now, opening outwards and emitting a smoke. The dull lights danced and intermittingly blinked.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
They came over to him, putting their hand on his.
“Ignore her, we’ve prepared for this. If they have to come, it is better than being killed. We’re not going to murder anyone for this. We decided that.” They said, almost whispering.
“It won’t work how you expect it to.” The woman suddenly said, pulling up her hood as the smoke spread out around them, reaching upwards like little hands.
“Wait, wait….” He began but with a sudden flash of light his words were cut out. The box inverted on itself, pulling them in like a black hole. He watched as the woman remained standing, anchored to the spot as the two of them disappeared into the space created now in the place where the box was.
He felt it then, the pinching and the scraping. Slashes on his back and head became more and more apparent. He saw them and he held out his hand to them, they took them, and he could see the same red marks appearing. He tried to speak but the words were taken away by an invisible hand.
And suddenly it stopped, and all was quiet.
The woman coughed, dispersing the smoke in front of her with her hands. She pulled her hood back and stepped forward towards the box. It shuddered slightly on the rock, the lights inside finally dying to nothing and the beam above disappearing up into the dark clouds.
She picked the box up, whispering to it.
“I will keep you safe, but I told you it wouldn’t work.” She said, and she turned from the rocks and began her way back into the woods. Before long, the orchestral music softly began to lift up and out into the trees, as her little light flickered into life. A tiny glow through the dark wood which floated along with the music, like a small eye in a black sea of space.