Black, thick liquid rushed through her aching throat and out of her frozen body. Voices spoke in hushed panic around her, but her ears couldn't decipher the words as convulsions threw her into a state of confusion and excitement.
Until only disorientation was left in her, and the amused laughter was silenced into oblivion.
With a sensation of dampness in her bones, Lynn felt exhaustion take a grip of her violated mind and drive her down a dark tunnel whose light remained too far from reach. Sleep welcomed her, and everything else faded away.
By the time Lynn was awoken by a soft rumbling in her ear, her sight was blocked by complete darkness. She stretched her sore legs, only for her feet to bump into an unexpected end. Blinking, she pushed sleepiness away and tapped around with her bare toes.
A wooden plank, she noticed with a frown.
She realized something else then: there was dirt beneath her fingers. Her eyes snapped open and she lifted her head, smashing it against another plank of wood that elicited a groan from her. With panic waving through her body, she searched around her and let out a surprised cry when something sharp scraped her skin — a nail.
"It's a nightmare," she soon found herself whispering. "It's not real."
But... what if it was? Because the pain in her hand told her otherwise, and so did the smell of dust. The dirt dug into her nails as she scratched the ground under her stuck body, and she could almost taste it in her mouth. After taking a long breath, her throat complained as the thick air made its way through.
She tried pushing against the planks, twisting her body in an attempt to place her legs against the unmoving wood. Panting, she bit back a wince as her fingers were scraped by another nail. But her efforts were fruitless, leaving her no other choice but to scream her lungs out — someone had to be there; someone had to hear her.
No one came to rescue her, and impotence was quick to transform her calls for help into frustrated punches.
And suddenly, something moved underneath. Her whole body froze as hands covered her mouth, muffling her startled scream behind their slimy touch. A strong taste of iron seeped between her lips as dirt and blood were smeared over them, before the scent of death numbed her senses.
Cold shivers crawled up her spine as someone whispered in her ear, and she shook her head in an attempt to break free.
"It's your fault... You let go," it continued, transforming into a voice she recognized — one that stabbed her heart with its merciless presence.
Against her own judgement, her teeth sank into his tattered skin and she gasped. "I thought Caleb... H-he was there," she choked.
The air escaped her lungs when his hand clasped around her throat, nails digging into it.
"Ah... you did that to him too, didn't you?" Malice dripped from his voice as he laughed, accompanying the crumbling of bones in the air. Beneath her trembling body, his twisted and convulsed — she felt it transforming, clawing at her back and scratching her skin. "He died because of you... just like me."
She bit the inside of her cheek as tears flooded her sight. "Mark, please... I'm sorry."
Guilt sank its fangs into her heart, drawing blood and filling her body with a sense of self-loathing. Why had she let go? Why had she allowed her paranoia to win, replacing her confidence with fear?
Long, inhuman fingers traced her arm before retracting. As something wrapped around her stomach tightly, she caught the shrill giggles of darkness and struggled against its hold.
YOU ARE READING
*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...