Into the Fire

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Alice knew she was in trouble the moment she broke one of her golden rules. There were three golden rules she grew up with. The first, to obey the Ten Commandments. Wait did that make it twelve? The second, do not give into the temptation of the Seven Deadly Sins. Was she up to eighteen? Her last and most important rule was to never be out at night.

The last rule seemed silly when compared to living by the tenets of God; especially the wrathful incarnation found in the Old Testament. However, Alice was reminded why townspeople followed this rule religiously the night her cousin did not come home. The tears, pleading and wailing were all part of the heart-wrenching reaction she observed. Alice had never witnessed such anguish before, even for a death in the family (which turned out to be frequent).

Alice remembered the look of sheer relief on their faces when she turned up in the morning, tired cold and hungry, but nonetheless no worse for wear. That told her all she needed to know. The grounding of a lifetime that followed simply reinforced the concept.

The town did not have much of a local economy, so some were forced to seek employment at the Grand. Given her, two kids and a deadbeat husband who had left her, Alice had no choice.

Despite her initial misgivings, her employer proved to be courteous, professional and generous with their bonuses. She was often surprised at how nice they were and enjoyed the ability to keep her flivver going. That way she could get home at a reasonable time or at least before the sun set.

This evening her normal drive took an unexpected turn for the worse when the car's engine sputtered out and died. This flivver had always been a bit of a hayburner and this month had been lean because she stayed home a few days to care for her sick daughter Lillian.

Alice had checked the tank before leaving, but there was obviously less than assumed. Now she was stuck outside just as crepuscular light filled the sky.

"Just ducky," she said then slammed her fist against the steering wheel.

When looking out along the road, the world before her began to change. Shadows were growing longer as the sky changed from a bright blue to purples, reds, and pinks. Soon the moon and stars would make their appearance in the heavens. Meanwhile, she would be alone, in the dark with a broken down jalopy to keep her company.

"Horsefeathers," she exclaimed then covered her mouth in surprise.

Alice laughed realising how absurd it was to be ladylike in a situation like this. She was out at sunset away from the town but close enough to the lower wall to see those gargoyles who gave her the heebie-jeebies. Why did she have this odd sense of being watched?

"Now what," she said with a sigh.

Should she stay in the car, or try to make it to town on foot? Another look at the sky told Alice all she needed to know, tiny little pinpricks of light were starting to pierce the celestial veil. No way could she reach the town in time. Was she even safe in her car? At the very least she would be enduring the chill of the night.

Would her kids worry? In all likelihood they would, considering she raised them to follow the same golden rules. Would they hug her and cry or be furious that their mother had left them on their own?

"What was that," Alice said before she looked out the passenger side.

The moon hung in the sky, it was full tonight so Alice was able to make out details in the tree line. Deep in the woods, she saw trees swaying side to side, one after another. When she rolled down the window, there was no breeze at all, it was as though the air had gone stale. So what caused these trees to move?

The trees' movement became more pronounced as the phenomenon approached. When her eyes registered fresh movement closer to the road, the sound of something crashing about reached her. Whatever it was, it must have been huge! What kind of animal was capable of this?

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