Tim Coté | Hong Rui Choo
The wind stirred restively as Amelia picked her way along, drawing a lush shock of dark hair into her eyes as she reached out into the dying light. She pushed away the low-hanging branch of a pine tree, crossing over into a small, enclosed meadow as she paused and caught her breath.
She started off through the clearing; high-stepping through the swaying grass, past wild, fire-colored dahlias and late blooms of daffodils whose scent dizzied her as she drew the sweet summer air deeply into herself. Her pale blue eyes faltered as she tripped and staggered a bit, staring out blindly into the next dark patch of wood. An ardent emotion urged her on as she glanced at her wristwatch, and she figured she had at least another twenty minutes of daylight before she’d have to turn back.
As she lit a cigarette, regrouping as she prepared to continue her pursuit, she noticed the wind beginning to kick up again. She watched entranced as the air directly above the tree line took on a denser appearance; the light blue and pink hues of the gathering sunset a somehow heavier gradient of color, and she knew it was close. She watched a moment more, marveling as the strange, vaporous mass seemed to push its way down into the wood, rustling the trees now as they hissed quietly in her direction.
She felt it hit her now, delighting as its cool kiss wicked away her anxiety, and she made her way toward the dark stand of trees, ignoring any remaining traces of self-preservation and common sense as her curiosity pulled her on.
After her sixth or seventh step into the wood an almost imperceptible shift occurred. As the sun slipped down to the horizon the temperature dropped, and the warm summer day suddenly transformed into a chilly dusk, raising goose bumps on her arms as her eyes adjusted. She realized there wasn’t enough light to perceive the strange mass of air, as before, and as she glanced around she suddenly lost her bearings.
Tamping back panicky intuitions as she imagined fleeting dark shapes in her peripheral, she steadfastly began to concentrate on retracing her steps back out toward the meadow. She could just barely make out the vague light of it now as she turned and took a step, tripping over some rotted branches as an insistent panic welled up within her. She heard the snap of a branch behind her and froze.
“Why did you follow me?,” a soft voice asked, stunning Amelia as her hair began to stand on end. She slowly turned, and could make out a radiant glow beaming out over her shoulder amid a tangle of dark tree limbs and silhouettes. She glanced ahead toward the meadow, maybe twenty yards away, noticing the light fading as dusk grew close. She turned to face the voice now, regretting the whole idea now as she realized she was trapped.
A perfect ball of soft light hovered before her, and within it she saw the flickering countenance of a young woman. Her long black hair seemed to float weightlessly around her face and shoulders; her outlines slowly focusing as fine layers of opaque matter coalesced and folded in on her. The face slowly faded into view, and Amelia could make out her widely spaced eyes and high cheekbones. The spirit appeared to be floating in a liquid medium; her long white nightgown flowing over and around her slender body in slow waves that rose and fell subtly as the sphere surrounding her shed phosphorescent drops, which began to pool on the ground between them.
Suddenly the glowing apparition loomed closer, and spoke again, in a haunted voice that sounded as if it’d been transmitted across a great distance.
“You’re a fool, you’re destined to die now, or end up in an asylum. They will lock you away, you shouldn’t have come,” said the woman, reaching down as she slowly began unbuttoning her nightgown.
Amelia stepped back as the woman finally ripped it open, screaming as the blackness within the billowing nightgown seemed to magnetize her, pulling her off her feet, drawing her inexorably into it as her flesh was transformed and she was completely absorbed.