Tiffany Hawkins: They Have a Little Secret

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For what felt like an hour, Tiffany lay on the floor of the Mayor's officer, legs to her chest. She hugged her knees tight and rested her head on the cold, marble floor. Her hair spread outward as if she was falling. Residual pain throbbed in her stomach, but the feeling of dying gradually receded, just enough to allow her to move onto her knees.

The change of position felt like ecstasy to her. She groaned and stretched, her arms pounding the ground. Her back cracked, and finally she moved from her knees to her feet. She felt her neck crack as she rolled it around her shoulders before shaking off the stiffness of her body.

Her hands felt for her stomach. She couldn't feel anything move anymore, and once again she almost fell over once she recollected the most chilling fact – a living thing was growing inside of her; her insides stitching together the fabrics of flesh she never knew nor wanted... and she had no choice but to let it grow and flourish within her.

Tiffany supressed a rising sickness. Her mind disallowed it, knowing too well that she did not have the time for it. Not caring about making too much sound, she grabbed her heels from the desk, put them on, and started to leave the office.

Before she could get very far, the heel of her shoe wedged into a small crack in the floor. She almost didn't notice at first, but when she stumbled and heard a popping sound, she drew her attention to it.

She cursed at first and wasn't going to give it a second thought, but her eyes followed the crack, and instantly she realised it formed a square. A weird sensation overcame her as she had just been lying in that spot, yet she did not realise she had actually lay atop a secret hole in the floor. She felt for some kind of wedge, and when she couldn't find one, she slid her nails into the crack and tried to pull it up.

One of her nails rose from its nailbed in the attempt. The small pain was nothing compared to what she had felt before, and not even a trickle of blood deterred her from continuing.

Once it was open, she looked inside. Without a lantern, she had to squint and move her head close. Not seeing anything, she slowly lowered her hand inside of it. Her flesh crawled at the prospect of what hid in the dark, her anticipation heightened.

She shot back when she felt something hard. At first she thought it was a hand coming towards her, but when nothing else happened, she put her hand inside again. Now, she realised she was feeling the bottom of a secret compartment, not the entrance to a secret basement.

Still, it felt ice cold inside, and she moved her hands around, her fingers scraping the bottom. The space expanded as it reached far wider than the square in the floor. She allowed her hand to wander beneath the floor she knelt on and soon felt some kind of parchment.

Intrigued, and elevated at the discovery of something, she pulled it out. Her glee was short-lived when she realised she could not read it in the dark. She kept it with her, folded it up, and placed it in her bra.

Being more careful as she walked, Tiffany left the Mayor's office. Her heels echoed as she thought they would, but the absence of people in the Town Hall now made her less worried about being caught. And if she was caught, she would not care, for now she had collected something she just knew would prove useful.

After walking through several halls and down the steps, she soon came across the wall of lost children. Lanterns stood on tables, the flames enlightening the names of those never to be seen again. It was tragedy in its most bizarre form, as an entire town has never been able to protect that one child each year, on the exact same date, from the same fate for centuries.

Now with light, Tiffany pulled out the parchment from her bra. She unfolded it and glanced at the writing. She worried, at first, that she would not be able to decipher it as the handwriting was almost illegible. It curled and swooped, with small circles microscopic to the eye.

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