Ember suddenly stopped and hid behind a bush, struggling to catch her breath, feeling the cool Seattle night air fill her lungs. Her head spun slightly, a mixture from having run so quickly and the alcohol coursing through her system. She listened intently for a moment, the police sirens barely audible from where she was, though she could also be hearing things in her drunken, paranoid state. She leaned forward and rested her arms against her knees, trying to get her bearings and rid herself of the burning sensation still engulfing her chest. Shaking her head angrily she thought back to the party and how it all started.
Her friends had convinced her to sneak out that night and come to a house party in Seattle, more than an hour away from the 16-year-olds hometown of Shelton, Washington. She had never been to a house party, let alone left Shelton without her family. She was a fairly well-behaved teen and always did what was asked of her. Tonight though, she felt rebellious. She always played by the rules and it was tedious. It felt as if she never really had any fun, watching all her friends brag about this party and that party that they had gone to. She was nervous admittedly, what if her parents found she had snuck out? What if something happened? Her childhood friends, Jake and Miranda, convinced her otherwise and egged her on to join them for once, as she had always told them said no (usually half-heartedly).
She told her parents’ goodnight around 9 pm and headed to her room. Quickly she put on some thick eyeliner and black lipstick. She picked out her most “punk outfit” consisting of a Black Tank Top, tight-fitting Tripp pants, and black combat boots.She laid down in bed and covered herself up, facing away from the door (for when her parents checked on her, they wouldn’t question her makeup) and pretended to be asleep until she had heard the click of her parents light around 10 pm, signaling them heading to sleep. A few moments later her phone vibrated. Jake was down the street. Waiting just a couple more minutes, Ember grabbed her coat and crept to her window and quietly opened it. Having taken the screen out after she got home from school ahead of time, she slid down to the wet grass from her first-floor room. Sliding the window back down, she left just enough room for her fingers to fit under it later and allow her back into her room. She peeked over at her parents’ bedroom window on the other end of the house. Lights out. She grinned before rushing down the street to meet her friend.
The party consisted of a mixture of adults in their 20’s and high schoolers trying to fit in. They had driven for over an hour before arriving at the slightly run down house, somewhere near downtown Seattle. Ember had nervously checked her phone multiple times throughout the trip, expecting a phone call or text from her parents at some point, but none came. Having always followed the rules seemed to allow for some freedom, as her parents would never suspect she had done such a thing as sneak out. The small and dimly lit living room was filled with people, and music blared as soon as you stepped through the threshold. Jake and Miranda signaled for Ember to follow them into the Kitchen, where she saw a few kids from their school there and some she had never seen, as well as 20 something-year-olds that seemed like THEY, were the ones trying to fit in with the younger kids. Ember got a chill up her spine seeing them eye the 16-17-year-old girls dressed very provocatively. Jake suddenly reappeared by her side and thrust a red Solo cup into her hand.
“Drink up!” He said with a smile before taking a large gulp of his own drink. Ember took a swig and then gagged.
“What is this?!” She asked looking at the brown liquid.
“Coke and Whiskey!” Jake laughed, taking another drink. “Thought I’d start you off with the easy stuff, get you buzzed before giving you something harder!”
Ember nervously took another drink, shaking violently for a moment as the cold liquid slid down her throat, warming her chest as it settled. That’s how it all began.
Soon the drinks were flowing more and she was drinking more. Feeling her head swimming, the world spinning around her. She had a harder and harder time staying up the more drinks she was given. Whiskey, Vodka, Tequila. Eventually, she was to the point she was able to take Shots without gagging. That’s when the sirens went off. Everyone bolted in different directions. Miranda yelled at Ember to run and they would catch up with her. In a fog but slightly alert, Ember headed for the back door and ran through alleyways as fast as she could, trying desperately to get away from the lights and the sirens. She was terrified but still ridiculously drunk and had absolutely no idea where she was nor where she was headed. She just knew she didn’t want to get caught. She turned around, expecting Jake and Miranda to be behind her, but she had lost track of them.
Ember looked up at the cloudy Washington night. Her stomach turned and she leaned over, almost instantly throwing up. Mixing drinks like that seemed a horrible idea. The contents of her stomach left her, reeking of the alcohol she had consumed, making her feel sicker. After a moment, she finally was able to stop, just before she heard footsteps. Her heart instantly jumped into her throat. She pushed herself back further into the bushes, terrified the police had tracked her down. They didn’t seem hurried though, more, paced and mellow. She bit her lip, still scared of being found and curled into a ball, trying to avoid her vomit pile in the same instance. The footsteps neared closer, and then suddenly stopped in front of her hiding spot. Holding her breath, Ember listened, waiting for them to continue on. She heard the owner of the footsteps chuckle, in a low yet menacing voice before speaking.
“Hello, my dear…” The voice cracked and wheezed as if the owner had smoked for many years and was gargling nails. Embers heart began racing in her chest, her breath stuck as she covered her mouth, eyes wide in terror. Then…
“I’m sorry it’s so late darling I was just going for a walk after work, a good way to wear myself out for bed………no no I didn’t forget…..uh huh….” The wheezy voice began to trail off as the footsteps started up again. Ember sighed in instant relief, laughing slightly to herself. It was just a regular person walking, the original greeting meant for a phone call he must have received. Peeking out of her hiding spot, she looked down the sidewalk towards where she thought the footsteps had gone. She didn’t see anyone. Figuring he had left her line of sight, she slowly came out of her hiding spot and took in her surroundings. She was on a dimly lit road, houses on either side the street. She didn’t see any crossroads nor street signs to give her an idea of where she was. She reached into her back pocket for her phone, hoping to call Jake or Miranda, only to discover that it wasn’t there! Frantically she searched the bushes only to remember she had left it in Jake’s car, at their request, wanting to ease her nerves instead of allowing her to check her phone every 5 minutes out of fear. She smacked her forehead angrily. This was just great. She had no idea where she was nor where to go. With a frustrated sigh, she decided to head in the opposite direction of the footsteps she had heard, not wanting to run into someone at that moment.
The cool breeze washed over her flustered face, seeming to slowly relieve her of her large buzz, but not enough to make her feel normal again. She silently thanked the powers that be that it wasn’t raining, a rare sight for Washington in the late fall. She quietly walked along the sidewalk, the glow of the street lamps bathing her in light now and then as she passed under them. The farther she walked the longer the street seemed to be. She kept looking around, hoping to find a side street, a sign, or something! Something that gave her an indication as to where she was in this god forsaking city. But there was none. Nothing at all. The more she looked around, the more she began fully examining the houses. They were all run down or in foreclosure. No light penetrated the streets from the windows. No sign of life came from anywhere. Which, at around 2 in the morning wasn’t so uncommon, yet it felt off. There were no cars on the street anywhere. In any of the few driveways she could see, nor along the road as was most common for parking in the Seattle area. Literally no signs of life at all. The air gave a chilling empty feeling. As if she was alone in the world.
The farther and longer down the street she walked, the more run down the houses seemed to become. Windows boarded up. Yards torn to shreds. Roofs falling in. Graffiti scrawled along a few sidings. A chill ran up her spine as the last of the alcohol seemed to leave her system, the hairs on the back of her neck rising as she sobered up more from the gripping fear. She hugged herself tightly, willing her legs to keep carrying her forward. She would eventually HAVE to find a side street. It couldn’t go on like this forever…..could it?
That’s when she heard the pop. She jumped suddenly, looking behind her towards the source. Far down the street, the overhead street lamps began going out on either side. Each one making a loud popping sound. Ember’s eyes widened, realizing that it was the bulbs bursting. One by one they popped out, heading towards her, leaving a wake of black behind them. Terror filled Embers heart as her fight or flight instincts took over and she began racing down the street, away from the coming wave of darkness.The houses dashed passed her as she ran, seeming to loom over her the farther she got, making her feel claustrophobic. Then she noticed the lights in front of her going out, making the same popping noise as the ones behind her, darkness now coming towards her, as well as behind her. She instantly stopped in her tracks, her breathing quickening as she began to panic, the lights popping around her more quickly, almost racing towards her, until finally there was only two left lit. The one she was under and the one just behind her.
Ember looked back and forth, trying to figure out what to do. It was as if someone had dumped black paint all around her. She couldn’t see a thing outside of the two dim rings of light, not even the houses closest to her. Then the footsteps began, soft at first, as if from a distance, then slowly getting louder as they neared closer to her. Ember could hardly breathe, her heart was racing so quickly she feared she may have a heart attack at any moment. Then from the shadows and into the ring of light just next to her stepped a man. His hands were in the pockets of a long black pea coat that came to just above the thigh of his black pressed pants with shiny black shoes. A black fedora-topped his long greasy black hair and covering his facial features in shadows as he bowed his head slightly. He let out a deep long cackle, his shoulders shaking slightly as he did. Looking up slowly at her, Ember was able to make out his face. It looked at if someone had melted features from his nose down together. There were no lips and where his nose should have been was nothing but a lump. His eyes were sunken in and completely black, aside from two small red pupils that felt as if they looked into her soul.
Ember opened her mouth to let out a scream, but it stuck in her throat and instead left her looking at him in horror with her mouth gaping open. This made him laugh even more from his melted mouth throwing his head back as he did so. With what she assumed to be a grin he held out a bony, shriveled hand towards her and spoke in the same cracked and wheezy voice she had heard earlier while hiding in the bushes.
“Hello, My dear…” He cackled softly, just as the last two lights popped loudly above their heads.