Blood dripped from the knife, trailing along its sharp edge to crash on the carpeted floor. A single candle glowed in the humid room as shadows glided across the walls; tongues of darkness danced under the weak glare of dim light. An eerie silence breathed in the gelid air, yet sinister laughter kept echoing in his head as invisible fingers reached to capture him.
Beads of sweat prickled his cold skin as Andrew stood still, facing the danger he had once awakened. Something fell in a room downstairs; it crashed on the floor, making the house rumble and creak. His breath hitched, his throat became dry. Death crawled up the stairs, sliding along the corridor and humming in amusement; he heard it whisper to his pounding heart, he felt it feeding from his paralyzing fear.
It was playing with him, again.
The hinges creaked as the door opened, before something breathed ice upon him. His raven hair stood on end as seconds ticked by, nearing the awaited hour that would either let hell break loose or put an end to the nightmare. And then, its inhuman voice returned to claim another fragment of his will.
"You can't escape us."
His stomach responded by clenching in terror. Bile crept up his throat, but he remained still. Its presence filled the air, smearing it with poison and threatening to suffocate him. No, it wasn't the first time he heard it chant a symphony of death in his head.
However, the effects were the same — worse, if anything. A wave of panic melted away his confidence, main culprit of his current situation. As the depths of the lake spoke to him and the evil being watched him squirm, his soul was thrown into a pit of memories; as if his mind wanted to remind him of his first mistake.
"You touched the lake," it had chanted back then, just before his body had been dragged underwater by its piercing claws. "Now you belong to us."
It had all been his fault; he shouldn't have dived in. But even then, Andrew had already been trapped by the presence which would eventually become their worst nightmare. Even before setting foot in that house, even before becoming mesmerized by the beautifully-wild area, before the idea of swimming in the lake had crossed his mind; he had been its chosen, perfect victim.
But how could he have known a peaceful swim in the lake under the watchful stare of the sun would turn into the coldest winter of all; that his family would become mere corpses with no soul the moment he came for air after diving in? A vision, a trick of his mind. Andrew never spoke of it, or gave it the importance it held.
He has been so young back then, and the terror had eventually been buried beneath the thick layer of time.
Would it have been different had he told his parents about the nightmare plaguing his mind; if he had opened his eyes to the impossible, to the supernatural, and accepted that the fear in his heart had a reason to exist?
"Your sister will be next," it whispered, freezing the air in his lungs.
As its threatening words brought him back to present time, fear lost the battle against his growing sense of protectiveness. The older brother in him snapped his eyes open to glare at the wall, knowing there would be no use in looking around.
"She's hiding from us in plain sight," it taunted. Its voice felt like needles piercing his head from every direction.
Andrew had told her to stay in her room, to hide under the duvet. Both of them knew it would be pointless, but her young mind hadn't allowed her to see the truth in his reassuring words; the only reason he wanted her away was to spare her the agony and trauma of watching her twenty-seven-year-old brother die if things didn't go as planned.
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*ONC 2020 SHORT LIST* Something evil dwells in the black lake by the misty woods, something that will claim the souls of those who dare to dive into its realm. Lynn Morris is ready to enjoy some well-deserved holidays in the company of her closest...