I was just coming around the bend where the park exit was when I stopped. The same red eyes that had been haunting me for the last three days were staring back at me at the end of the path. I was so horrified I couldn’t move. My heart started to pick up speed. I tried to think logically but my brain wasn’t functioning. I turned to run but another set of red eyes were staring at me from the direction I had just come from. I broke out into a cold sweat as my heart started thrumming in my ears.
“Leaving so soon?” it hissed from behind.
I whipped around and it had moved to stand about five feet away from me. I tried to scream but my voice got caught in my throat. Why was this happening to me?
“We just want your essence,” a voice purred in my ear, ”It shines so bright.”
My eyes widened in alarm. Before I could blink I was staring up into soulless red eyes. I would die here. For a moment I was transfixed by its stare, terrified of what I saw in it but unable to look away. I don’t want to die I thought to myself. Memories of mom and Adrian flashed in front of me, how they looked, what my death would do to them. I had to do something. I tried to claw at it, but it grabbed my arms and held them in a vice grip. When I tried to scream again the one from behind grabbed my hair and yanked my head back.
“Now now,” it whispered it my ear, “be a good little girl and don’t try anything stupid.”
I could feel panic bubbling inside me; the harsh reality, despair kicking in as they started dragging me toward the trees. I struggled against them with all my might, lashing out and kicking but they just melded in and out of the shadows. The farther they dragged me into the trees the more panicked I got, I couldn’t breathe. The darkness was becoming absolute; I could barely see anything anymore. I started clawing at the branches, trying to grab onto something, anything that would slow down their progress.
“Stop struggling,” one of them hissed, “Or we’ll make you.”
I saw a light flicker somewhere in my vision but it was so dark, I couldn’t tell if it was just headlights breaking through the trees as they pulled me deeper into the park. When it flickered again, closer, I tried to grab at it but I couldn’t quite reach. We stopped suddenly and I was looking into a pale face. Its expression twisted in anger.
“I said stop struggling.” I felt sharp pain flare across my cheek as it slapped me.
The light flickered again. With nothing else to lose I grabbed for it one last time, reaching as far as I could. As I closed my hand around it I felt a rush of wind all around me. The Umbra took a step back. The next moments passed in a blur. I pushed at the Umbra in front of me, which seemed crazy because it was too far away for me to reach, but I felt a strong wind pass over my arms and through my hands. It was thrown back against a tree. I struggled against my final captor with a new vigour, trying to twist myself around. I managed to push a hand right at its face. I felt the same wind surge again and I tried to push with more force this time. The Umbra was caught off guard and we were both thrown several feet. I landed on my back, knocking the breath out of my lungs. I didn’t have time to think about what just happened. I heaved myself up and bolted through the trees. I had no idea where I was going, I could barely see, I just knew I had to get away. My whole body focused on not tripping in the darkness. I don’t know how long I ran for before I cleared the trees and scrambled down the gravel path. As I chanced a look behind me I ran headlong into someone. I was about to fall backwards when they grabbed me by the arm and I fell forward into them. I tried to catch my breath but I was starting to hyperventilate. I pulled back and tried to steady myself.
“I’m so sorry,” I heaved.
“Alice?” he said.
I looked up. Oh dear sweet baby Jesus, it was Dawson. I had never been so glad to see this man in my entire life. I didn’t care that he was arrogant and infuriating. After facing death in the face I did what any emotionally strung woman would do, I buried my face in his jacket and started crying.
“Uhh, I can’t say I’ve ever been greeted like this before,” he joked, but then I felt him tense.
“She’s with an Elemental,” I heard a familiar hiss.
I whirled around, a look of shock and horror on my face. I started to shake.
“Alice,” Dawson whispered in my ear, “I want you to take a deep breath and calm down.”
Something in his voice made me listen. My panic subsiding a bit, I looked up at him, his expression was something fierce. I could see a faint red glow appear around him as he lifted his hand.
“Ignea,” he whispered, and a ball of fire formed. He tossed it in the air a couple times before whipping it toward the Umbra. They dodged it.
“Enough,” turning toward Dawson they continued “We will be back Elemental; we don’t take this defiance lightly.”
And with that they disappeared into the shadows of the trees. My legs gave out at that point but Dawson caught me and held me up.
“Do you think you can walk?” he asked me.
“I think so,” I said taking a few wobbly steps.
“I don’t suppose this would be a good time to say ‘I told you so’,” he looked down at me and grinned.
I laughed a hysterical kind of laugh, until tears were streaming down my face. I couldn’t stop.
“You’re in shock,” he said, “let’s get you home.”