This story is by Victoria Nowrangilall and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Somerfield Park was particularly busy when Myra arrived with her daughter – busy enough that she didn’t notice when Cora’s bright pink hat flew over the chain-link fence.
Her blood ran cold when she spotted Cora crawling through the gaping hole in the fence. Just beyond was a heavily wooded area, where the Santos’ boy had wandered in years ago, never to be seen again. It was rumored that a dark, dangerous creature lived there, hiding. Waiting.
“Cora! Cora, get away from there!” Myra screamed, dashing across the park. She nearly trampled over the other kids, but her little girl was already at the edge of the woods. A shadow loomed over her, growing larger and larger by the second. Myra leapt over the fence and broke into a sprint.
“Cora don’t go in there! Come back!”
Cora turned around and tilted her head, confused. “Mommy? What’s wrong?”
“NO! Don’t!” The shadow reached out and snatched the little girl up. Myra launched herself forward, grabbing onto Cora’s foot as her high-pitched shrieks pierced the air. But it yanked them both upwards and she lost her grip. She dropped to the ground with a dull thud. A gust of wind kicked up the snow around the shadow, and in the next moment, they were gone.
Myra scrambled to her feet. Her heart was pounding, a million thoughts racing through her mind.
I can’t call Ricky.
The police will take too long.
Cora’s in danger!
Behind her, a large crowd of concerned parents had already formed. Some were clutching their kids and crying. Others stood with their mouths agape, horrified at what they just saw. She turned to them.
“Someone call the police. CALL THE POLICE, NOW!” Myra barked. Dial tones and panicked voices broke out of the crowd as Myra spun around and headed straight for the woods, determined.
I’m saving my daughter.
All sense left her as she let the darkness wrap around her, enveloping her into its mysterious depths.
In the deepest part of the woods, underneath the towering trees and cawing crows, Myra searched high and low for her daughter. The snow added an eeriness to the landscape that made her a little uneasy, but what was truly unsettling was that there were no footprints. No sign that anyone, or anything, had passed through there.
Myra’s chest ached at the thought of her daughter, scared and alone. The day had started off so beautifully, but it had quickly turned into her worst nightmare. Doubt crept its way into her thoughts with each minute that passed.
I should’ve kept a closer eye on her.
I shouldn’t have even brought her here!
What is Ricky going to think?
How will I ever find her?
The snap of a branch echoed in the distance. Myra spun around. She took a few cautious steps forward and listened.
A sudden gust of wind picked up and danced around her, encapsulating her in a whirlwind of snow. She looked around frantically.
What the hell is going on?
Suddenly, a dark figure sprung forward and tackled her to the ground.
“Get off me, get off!” she screamed. Long, gnarly nails dug into her shoulders, pinning her down. She dared to look at its face and gasped. Sharp teeth gnashed just inches away from her face, its vile breath making her recoil. But the worst sight was its black eyes that bore into her. She felt them burning into her very soul.
The creature lurched forward and Myra shrieked. She felt around her for anything that might help her, until her fingers brushed against something hard and rough. She mustered all of her strength and kicked the creature, sending it flying. She hurled the object and it landed with a resounding crack.
Myra’s eyes widened. Cora?
“Cora!” She scrambled to her feet, hope blooming inside her.
“Cora, where are you honey?” she called out. Myra stumbled towards the voice. Her eye caught on something buried in the snow, something… pink?
She bent down and uncovered it. Cora’s hat!
“Watch out Mommy! He’s coming for you!”
Myra heard a low growl just before something grabbed her by the middle. She was lifted into the air, unable to wriggle out from its grasp.
“Let me go!” she punched and kicked desperately but to no avail. She could hear her Cora’s shrill shrieks below, crying out for her.
I have to save her!
A loud gunshot rang through the air, followed by several more. Myra heard voices below, shouting something indistinguishable. The creature screeched in pain and fell to its knees. Its grip loosened on Myra and she took the chance to wriggle out of its grasp. She tumbled to the ground, pain erupting through her leg as she landed.
A group of men surrounded her, while another set rushed towards the creature. In the frenzy of it all, she caught a glimpse of their badges.
“Ma’am, are you okay?”
“Don’t worry, you’re safe now.”
“Where is my daughter? You have to find her!” Myra shouted at them.
One of the men stooped down to observe her.
“Right now, we need to get you to a hospital,” he informed her. He motioned to the men and they lifted her off the ground. She winced at the pain, and her vision soon became blurry. Their faces were cloudy, and her strength was beginning to wither. Then, everything went black.
“Myra, baby. You awake?” Myra blinked at the harsh, fluorescent lighting above. She heard the incessant beeping of machines nearby and felt a rush of cool air as people whirled around her.
“Ricky?” She tried to lift her head, but the pain was too much.
“It’s me, baby. How you feeling?” He reached out and brushed the matted hair from her forehead.
She groaned in response, knowing she looked as bad as she felt.
“Where am I? Where’s Cora? Is she okay?” she inquired, concern edging her voice.
“You’re in the hospital. You got hurt pretty bad out there.”
Ricky squeezed her hand, a small smile spreading across his face. “She’s okay. She’s recovering.”
Myra’s heart flooded with joy at the news, and she let her body relax against the firm hospital bed.
Just then, Ricky’s phone rang, drawing his attention away.
“You should rest, baby. You’ve been through a lot today.” He kissed her forehead and he left the room.
A wave of peace settled over Myra.
Cora’s safe now.
Though the dishwasher was loaded and the leftovers were put away, Myra lingered in the kitchen. There was still one thing left to do today. She eyed the time on the microwave – 11:55pm.
“Ready baby?” Ricky yawned as he came down the stairs. She nodded, unable to contain her smile. She got a white bakery box out of the fridge and carefully pulled out its contents – a chocolate cupcake topped with vanilla frosting. Cora’s favorite.
Ricky stuck a pink birthday candle in the middle and lit it. The small flame lifted Myra’s heart, and she gave her husband a quick kiss before heading upstairs.
They tiptoed into Cora’s room, who was already fast asleep. Myra took a second to admire how peaceful her little girl looked, clutching her stuffed bunny. Just two weeks had passed since that terrible day in the woods. But it all felt so far away now.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” The couple sang softly, nudging Cora awake. She stirred and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Once she saw the candle, her face lit up.
“Mommy! Daddy!” she exclaimed, clapping happily. Myra laughed at Cora’s smile, which was missing two front teeth.
“Make a wish baby girl!” Ricky held the cupcake in front of her.
Cora closed her eyes and scrunched up her face in deep concentration. The couple chuckled.
Then, Myra felt something brush against her skin. She cringed at its touch and a shiver ran up her spine.
What is that?
Just when her little girl opened her eyes, Myra’s heart stopped. They no longer had the warm brown shade that she’d loved so much. Instead, they were black and soulless. A snarl escaped Cora’s lips and she blew out the candle, drowning them in darkness.