Chapter 2

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Stepping outside is like entering another world. It seems unnaturally dark, the trees vague black shapes against the night sky. The moon had disappeared, taking any comforting light it offered with it. The wind is a constant scream, tearing against my nightgown, twisting and tangling it around my legs.

I stumble, eyes straining in the darkness, squinting as bits of debris race through the air, pricking at my skin. The gusts are freezing, biting through my thin gown, stealing the air from my lungs. My chest constricts.

I am terrified and I can feel that fear tearing me apart. The urge to flee overwhelms me as the unnatural darkness presses against me from all sides.

Turn around, every instinct in me screams. Turn around.

My feet are prepared to take me back into the house, to turn back to where Willow waits for me. But I hear a faint voice on the wind.

I jolt. I'm not sure how long I've been standing here for, frozen a few feet from the doorway, but the panic pushed all thoughts of my father from my mind. No, not panic. I'm not such a coward, that the sight of the darkness would drive me to forget about Father. I know I'm not. Something is off out here.

Something is playing with my mind.

I can feel it now, a heavy sort of pressure in the air, squeezing against my head. I lick my lips, and they taste of metallic blood.

The darkness suddenly feels much more hungry. Much more... alive. Willow's words are echoing in my ears and I can feel the presence she was talking about, something out here with me. But that also means that it is out here with Father.

"Father!" I shout, taking a few steps further. The wind seems filled with whispers now, mocking and taunting me. I shake my head, not sure what is real and what is my mind playing tricks on me. I feel sweat slip down the back on my neck, dripping down my spine.

I hear the voice again, nothing more than an indecipherable groan but I know it's him. The sound draws me further away from the house, towards the line of black trees. The wind seems to shift, pushing against my back with more force. Urging me on.

"Closer... closer," it seems to whisper.

Just before the tree line, a dark shape is folded on the ground. My heart skitters a frantic beat against my ribs as I strain to make out what it is.

"Father?" I whisper, certain that if I take one step closer, it will reveal itself as my father, gazing blankly at the night sky.  An image of my mother's body flashes before my eyes.

No. I won't consider it. Until I see for sure, I won't think of him as anything other than alive. I gather what little courage I have left and take another step forward.

But my breath freezes in my throat as the shape unfurls, spreading up from the ground, like an ink stain on paper. It isn't just dark, it is darkness itself. It's the shadowy spaces in the night where monsters dwell. It is the evil lurking in the hearts of men that drives them to do unspeakable things.

I stare into the inky depths, the edges writhing like snakes, convulsing in the air around it, reaching towards me. A deep primal part of me screams to run, recognizing a predator bringing a swift promise of death. But I am rooted to the ground, a scream trapped in my lungs as the tendrils grow closer.

"Don't move", the wind whispers. "It will be over soon."

They are only inches away, when out of nowhere, a warm hand closes around mine. My body is instantly filled with a bolt warmth from head to toe and a bubble of light expands around me, sudden and blinding. The pressure disappears from my head. It chases away the shadows, banishing them back to the thing at their core. It's vaguely human shaped, though taller, more slender, and the edges are blurred, almost hard to look at.

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