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The Village In The Shadows

the village in the shadows
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Estimated reading time — 12 minutes

September 3rd, 1692

Northridge village stood as it always had, apart from most of the civilized world. It was a simple self contained community consisting mostly of farmers and the simple village folk. On this late afternoon bathed with the orange light of the setting sun the village looked like a painting that renaissance artists would dream of crafting. The sun glinted off the high cross of the catholic church and shone across the crowded streets. In a field a farmer wipes the sweat off his brow savoring a hard days work before the true trails of the harvest would ravish him. Outside women are taking their washes off the lines humming a happy tune. The local smith would bang his hammer one final time before closing up shop. The laughter of children could be heard through the streets as the young always manage to savor the joy well they could. For in this happy little village one simple truth lay supreme.

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The folk of the village were blissfully unaware of the hardships of the new world. They did not know nor care whom sat upon the British throne. However there is one thing every member of Northridge village knew and that was you never went out at night. For this village sat at the base of the Carpathian mountains and the shadow of those peaks held more then just the cold in their dark depths. Well most of the world was evolving and growing to believe that true evil lied within the murderers or thieves heart, the people of Northridge knew much greater and more ancient evils. There were more graves in the town born of this evil then disease or the passage of time and many of those graves were empty. The evil that plagued this town did not leave bodies for the families to mourn nor if they did would they want to. Yes this village knew evil and evil knew them very intimately.

A group of children ran past town square giggling and tossing a doll around. The owner of the doll, little Gracie, pleaded with the other children to give her doll back but the other children were reluctant to give up their fun. They tossed the doll just over the small girls reach delighting in her frustrated screams. “Come on guys this isn’t funny!” Gracie yelled. “Really then maybe you should come over here because from where I’m standing it’s completely hilarious.” Her older brother Matt replied. One of the older girls rolled her eyes at Matt. “Come on give her the doll, it’s getting late we need to get home.” Matt heaved a sigh. “Fine here you go you little baby.” Matt tossed the doll in the air towards his baby sister however a strange and powerful gust of wind pulled the doll like a kite and it landed several feet away just on the outer edge of town past the graveyard.

The wind stopped as quickly as it began and with it the sound of all laughter stopped. The children all stood frozen as the sun sank beneath the church steeple casting an early evening shadow over the field. They stood in silence with the only sound being their ragged breaths panting out of their gaping mouths. “Go get it Matt please!” Gracie pleaded. “No way! I am not going out there when the sun is going down.” Matt said with almost equal panic to Gracie. The older girl walked over to Matt and grabbed his arm roughly. “This is your fault. You took the joke too far and you are going to fix it. Now get out there and make it quick. We shouldn’t have been out here this late.” Matt gulped audibly but nodded his agreement.

Matt began to slowly move through the graveyard like a man walking towards his death. He began to feel like Jack walking through the giants lair. One wrong step could spell his doom. The sun started to cast long shadows from the tree branches. “Don’t step on the shadows.” He thought to himself. “If you do they can use their powers to drag you to their lair.” With his mind so encased in fear he couldn’t even remember if that was true or something that the children made up. The whole world was silent and even the breath in his lungs didn’t make noise as if it too was afraid to wake the dead. His eyes scanned the many tombstones that surrounded him. So many died so young all for breaking the villages one rule that he himself was close to breaking right now.

He glanced at a tombstone and his blood ran cold as he could have sworn he saw his own name written upon it and that the date was this one. He closed his eyes and silently mouthed “It’s not real, it’s not real!” He opened his eyes and saw the name wasn’t his own and the date was from two years prior. He was closing in on the doll now. A few more feet and he could grab it. Then he would run, run as if the armies of hell were on his heels. For they very well could be if he didn’t hurry. He took one final step and began slowly reaching for the doll. “Just grab it and run! Grab it and never tease Gracie again.” He pleaded to his shaking body. He finger tips touched the dolls hand and as soon as it did he felt the doll move in his grip. Terror ripped through Matt and he turned and ran like the wind. “Don’t let it get me!” he prayed as he ran. Finally he made is back to his friends. “I felt it move, the damn thing is alive.”

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The older girl gave him a smack on the head. “Of course it moved you little chicken. Look out there.” Matt turned and saw that the wind was once again blowing only in the opposite way. The wind has moved the doll and here he was screaming of devils. “Please just run back and grab her!” Gracie pleaded. Matt shook his head frantically. “Not a chance sister, not tonight. I promise I will go back and get your doll tomorrow. If it’s gone I’ll buy you a new one. Hell I’ll make you a new one personally. Right now we need to get indoors or those things will be the least of our worries.” The older girl looked at Gracie. “Listen I hate to agree with him but he’s right, we’ve been out too long.” The children ran off with only Gracie left to look out at the darkening graveyard road. Her little doll Heidi lay so close yet so far away. She stared at the doll as leaves swirled around it’s felt body. For the smallest of moments the little girl almost thought she saw the doll sit up and start to wave at her. That was all she needed to turn tail and run for her home.

All across the town people were moved into a frenzy. The wind had turned stronger and far more ominous. Father Gregor locked up the church and stared into the forest at the base of the mountain. They were coming tonight, of that much he was certain. The villagers had been careful as of late. The beasts would be growing hungry and the hungrier they got the darker and more clever they became. Though he never could go through with such a thing himself he began to understand how his ancestors might have offered a sacrifice to please such a beast. The idea was abhorrent to say the least however the thought of a peaceful nights sleep was damn tempting, damn tempting.

The streets emptied as closed signs were flipped, doors were locked and crucifixes’ were placed in almost every window. The town was cleared and only fallen leaves moved in the streets. The lasts rays of the sun sunk beneath the horizon and a blanket of blackness spread over the sky. The village of Northridge, a town that is normally full of love and laughter was put to rest. For in the hours of darkness the town no longer belonged to it’s people, it belonged to them.

“But mommy I can’t sleep without Heidi!” Gracie pleaded with her mother as she was being put to bed. Her mother sat on the bed and stroked her daughters hair. “I know, I’m sorry baby but you are getting to be a big girl now and I know you are stronger then that. You just need to turn over and close your eyes. Before you know it the morning sun will be streaming through that window and everything will be alright again.” Her mother soothed. “But what about Heidi? She is all alone out there, alone with them.” Gracie said and a shiver went through her body at the mere mention of them. Her mother laughed and continued to stroke her hair. “Don’t you worry about Heidi they would have no interest in her. In morning light we will go and grab her and she will still have that big smile on her face. Then you can smack your brother upside the head with her.” Gracie laughed at that and her mother got up to exit.

“Mommy why do we stay here? There are other places in the world, places without evil.” Gracie asked. Her mother lowered her eyes and shook her head. “I know this is hard to understand but evil is out there no matter where you go. It can come in any form, even those you trust. If you let evil push you around then you let it win and it’s wickedness will spread. We have to stand firm against it to show it that light is stronger then the darkness. Besides as long as we are careful they have no power over us. We hold the power and even they know that.” Gracie paused for a moment then nodded. She wished her mother goodnight as she left the room. Gracie’s mother was left to ponder her own words that even she didn’t fully believe.

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The night was full now and in this village no one lit their lamps, no candle flickered in the dark. The only light was that of the waning sliver moon that shone threw Gracie’s window bathing her in it’s cold and distant glow. Gracie lay awake thinking about the world of the night. From time to time travelers would pass through the town and pick up supplies for their journey. They would tell tales of a world where men, women and children could walk through the peaceful night. She marveled at the wonders of bonfires, lantern dances and even midnight strolls. To her the idea was as far-fetched as traveling through the stars but they spoke with such conviction she couldn’t help but dream. She let out a sigh for even at 5 years old she knew that a world without fear of the night is a world she would never see.

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She had turned over and could feel herself slipping into the world of dreams when the sound of scratching came from her window. The sound froze her blood and caused her to shake uncontrollably. “You can’t get in because I say so. If you ask I’ll say no. So since you are not welcome here then please go go go.” Gracie sang into the night. It was a song taught by her mother to help her get through the scary moments. However the chant did little good for her now because the scratching continued and got louder. “I said you can’t come in so please go!” Gracie yelled through chattering teeth. “Oh please Gracie I’m so cold out here.” A small but sweet voice from outside rang.

Gracie’s eyes widened for she knew that voice. It was partially her own but she knew the true owner was Heidi. It was the voice Heidi would use when they talked to each other at night. Gracie turned in her bed and faced the window. There standing on the narrow ledge was Heidi scratching at the glass. “Heidi you came back.” Gracie said in an excited tone. “Yes but why did you leave me out there? I was all alone and so scared. Why would you leave me like that?” Heidi whined and sounded like she had tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry it was mean old Matt that did it!” Gracie replied with scorn in her voice. Heidi issued a laugh that actually unnerved Gracie slightly. “Oh I know and trust me you and I are going to get him back. I have many ideas on that.”

Gracie became afraid again. She had no doubt that was Heidi out there but something had changed. Her perpetual smile that used to bring her joy now caused Gracie to break out in goose bumps. The dolls eyes normally completely vacant now had an intelligence and just a hint of malice twinkling in them. “Oh Gracie I’m so cold out here won’t you please let me in?” Heidi pleaded. Gracie froze again for those were the one words you could never obey at night no matter what. “You know I can’t Heidi, you know the rules as much as I do.” The doll seems to twitch for a moment that someone older and wiser would have known to be associated with rage. The doll righted itself and if possible it’s grin grew wider. “That’s ok you don’t have to let me in just open the window and pull me inside. Then we can be together and you never have to sleep alone again.”

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Gracie gulped but looked hopeful. One quick grab and she could have her doll back and they could go off to dreamland together. Heidi would stop the bad dreams, she always did. Gracie got out of bed and began to tip toe to the window. “That’s it Gracie prove to mean old Matt that you are braver then he is. Oh how embarrassed he will be in the morning. You could hold that over his head forever just like he held me over yours.” Gracie smiled, she could just see Matt’s face filled with shock and shame. She couldn’t wait to tell all his friends, especially the girl down the street who even Gracie knew he fancied. “Come on open the window and you and I can play together all night.”

Gracie undid the window latch and could feel the cool breeze hitting her face. She had never felt a night breeze and it felt wonderful in the stuffy room. “Take my hand Gracie and we will be together forever.” The dolls final word seemed to echo in Gracie’s mind and with no fear or hesitation she reached out and grabbed Heidi’s felt body. As she closed her hands around the doll another hand closed around hers. The hand was completely grey and had long claws on the end. With surprising strength the hand pulled Gracie right out of the window.

Gracie looked down and issued the loudest scream her lungs could produce. The creature belonging to the hand was the most horrible thing she had ever witnessed. She had heard stories from the other children about what they looked like. They would say horrible things to try and scare her and yet none of that came close to the fiend that lay before her. The creature was a woman or at least it used to be. Long flowing black hair seemed to almost hover behind it like a living cape. Her skin or what remained of it was the darkest and yet dullest grey she had ever seen. Her skin was peeling away in several places revealing not only her bones but also all manner or terrifying creatures crawling under the surface. Maggots, spiders even centipedes seem to make home in her body. The woman’s fingers were long but crooked, as if they had been smashed with a hammer over and over again. Her mouth gaped open and two large incisor fangs poked from her blackened gums. However it was the eyes that frightened her the most. They were not the blazing red as she had been told but jet black orbs that pierced into her soul. Gracie saw every nightmare she ever had swimming in those depths. “Forever.” The nightmare lady echoed once more. She stuffed Gracie under her arms and leapt into the night.

Matt awoke at Gracie’s scream. In an instant he knew that was not the scream of some dreamed nightmare but a very real one. He got out of bed and ran as soon as his feet touched the ground. He sprinted though the house knocking things over but not caring one bit. He had to get to his sister, nothing else mattered. He burst through her door and his eyes went straight to the open window. “No!” he thought to himself. Gracie was young but no fool. She would never open the window for them. “Why Gracie, why?” His thoughts were broken by a horrifying cackle outside. His eyes narrowed in and he could see his sister being carried away by some creature. All at once nothing else mattered. Not the village rules, not his own safety, only his sister mattered now.

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Matt ran and leaped out of the window and landed on the ground below. The fall from the second story shattered his left leg and he knew it was broken but it didn’t matter. He hobbled through the streets chasing after the sound of Gracie’s screams. “Help her!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. “Please for the love of God somebody help her!” But he knew it would be useless. The people of this village would not leave their homes at night, not for the world itself. He was alone in the fight for Gracie’s life. “So be it.” Matt ran as fast as he could on his broken leg. Even if they cut off both his legs he would crawl to her.

He made it out of town to the edge of the woods and to his surprise he saw Gracie standing there. She stood by the edge of the trees shaking from head to toe. “Gracie thank God come to me lets run home.” Gracie did not move but stood there shaking and panting. “Come on sister nothing is going to hurt you now that I’m here. Please come to me please.” Matt begged. That was when he saw it. Barely made out by the light of the moon was a dark grey hand on her shoulder. Then out of the darkness he could see multiple pairs of jet black eyes. They were eyes that shouldn’t stand out in the dark but nothing in nature was as black as these eyes staring at him.

Matt let out a deep breath. “Please let her go. I offer my life for hers. I’m much bigger and more full of blood then she is.” Matt begged. At the word blood he could hear a loud puffing sound. The sound of a predator scenting pray. In that moment he could almost make out an outline of a grey face in the dark. Matt got to his knees and lowered his head. “I offer my life and service to you. Feed on me, turn me, torment me for eternity just let her go please.” With his head down he couldn’t see but the sound of the creatures panting grew louder and louder. Then there was an unnatural silence as if the universe itself held it’s breath. Then out of that silence came a cold and inhuman male voice. “No.” The voice rang and Gracie was pulled into the forest.

Gracie’s screams rang though the night. Matt screamed back and got on his feet to run after her. A pair of strong arms wrapped around Matt’s chest and held him back. “No boy you mustn’t go out there.” Matt knew that voice very well, it was the voice of Father Gregor. “I know how you feel child believe me but there is nothing more you can do.” Matt continued to struggle and grunt but it was no use. Finally the sound of his sisters screams faded into the night. That was the night that would shape Matt’s life forever. That was the night his sister was taken by the vampires.

Credit : Tenac

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