a short story by Sydney Levitt, ’24

Black. All I saw was black as I lost the feeling in my legs. But then I saw a small light that peered through my opening eyes as the cold, wet grass swayed besides me. It felt like the world was spinning around me until I couldn’t figure out which way was left and which was right. I shut my eyes again to keep myself from vomiting as the dizziness continued to grow. I inhaled deeply and during the exhale, I felt two firm hands grab my arms and squeezed. I gasped and opened my eyes instantly. A woman with black hair pulled into a bun stared into my eyes as her torn sweater slowly drifted off her shoulder. Her cold and emotionless eyes stared into mine. Did she take me here?
“Get up, we have to go.”

I crept through the tall grass as quietly as possible, clutching onto my sweater, which was torn to shreds at this point, still keeping it close. I’m not sure why. There was no point of keeping it on me. Maybe I was craving a safe and warm touch from someone else. Or maybe I needed it in case someone, or something, grabbed me and I needed a quick escape. Takes it off and run. The more layers, the better. Unfortunately, I only have one, just one chance to keep my life. So I guess that means that I’ll keep my sweater.
I heard breathing, deep in the grass. It sounded like it was coming from behind the bushes. Most people here would take this opportunity to run, but that’s not me. There’s no way that “Thing” could fit behind a bush. It’s figure would create a fearful shadow. Not to mention that fact that there’s no way it just sat down to take a nap. That “Thing” has only one thing on it’s mind, and it’s not taking a break. It’s lurking, but not right here.
I approached the bush slowly and peered over with caution. Just as I suspected, the “thing” was nowhere to be seen. Instead, it was a girl who looked scared half to death. I could tell that she was new from her attitude and perfectly intact clothing. I knelt down to her level and grabbed her upper arms. She opened her eyes in shock and froze. She started to shake as I tightened my grip.
“Get up, we have to go” I told her in an asserting voice. She didn’t move. Her mouth opened but nothing came out. “Hey! I’m trying to help you.”
“Wh-who are you?” She asked.
“I’m Lin. And you are?”
“Caroline.” She made full eye contact with me, but her eyes quickly darted away. She was warming up to me, but clearly still confused on the entire situation.
“Great. We don’t have time for small talk. I’ll tell you everything about myself once we get out of here.” I took her hand and walked quickly as Caroline squeezed my hand tight. Just as we thought the coast was clear, there was a loud smash coming from the barn.
“Quick!” I yelled at Caroline. “We have to run. “It’s” coming.”

The steel was cold against my hands as the wind blew a strong gust against my skin. I tried to catch my breath as I clutched onto my partially slashed stomach. The pain filled my whole body as I tried to let go of the material stack. I could walk but the pain was unbearable. I needed to find someone. Maybe they could help me. As I looked up, I realized that the barn wasn’t too far away. Maybe I could find some help inside. I limped my way into the barn, but no one was there. I wasn’t fully capable of walking but I tried to drag my feet across the floor. But of course, I tripped over a loose floorboard. I clattered to the floor, stubbing my toe in the process. But that was nothing compared to my other injuries.
I looked back at the stray piece of wood see something shiny sticking out of the floor. I picked away at a couple other floorboards until I could see the object. It was a fairly small silver box, neatly placed as if it was meant to be found. My curiosity couldn’t contain itself and before I even knew it, the box was in my lap. The small latch was lightly tarnished like it hadn’t been opened for years. I unhooked the latch with my thumb to reveal the glass ball inside. To my amazement, it was a key. This was the fifth key that the group has found so far. Only three more keys until we can open the escape and leave this place for good. God only knows how we got here.
The one problem with the glass ball was that the key was sealed inside. There was no way to open it without destroying the glass. That sounds fine except for the fact that glass shattering is super loud. That would’ve definitely notify that “Thing” and give it as a sign that someone is in the barn. But we need this key, so I did what I had to do. I raised the ball high over my head and slammed it to the floor. It smashed open the glass, but it also smashed my safety. I think “It” now knows where I am.
I made a run for it. I ran as far as I could to get away from the barn even though it was then most excruciating pain in my life. I gripped onto the key almost as hard as I gripped my stomach. Then, there was a scream. It came from far away, most likely meaning that that “Thing” is busy at the moment. Who’s scream was that? Allie? Lin? Max? But all of a sudden, I heard footsteps. At first, I thought that “it” was here. But after listening a little more carefully, there were two pairs of footsteps.
“David?” A voice called. I knew it was Lin. Maybe she could help me with my wound. At this point I would take help from anybody. Well, almost anybody.
“Lin!” I called, as I ran closer to here. She was holding hands with another girl that I’ve never seen before. But Lin trusts nobody, so the fact that she’s coupling up with this girl says a lot about her. But I still feel like I should ask.
“Who is that?” I asked as I pointed to the girl.
“Here name’s Caroline.” Lin replied. “She’s new. But shes super shy and doesn’t really speak much. Just try to be pa-” Before she could even finish speaking, Caroline joined into the conversation.
“What happened?” She’s asked, eyes glued to my wound. Lin took off her ripped sweater and tightly wrapped it around my waist.
“Did ‘It’ get you?” She asked. I nodded my head as she tightened the sweater.
“Please be careful, David.” Lin grabbed her bare shoulder as if she lost part of herself. Why was she protecting this sweater. And why did she give it to be if it was so important? It looked like rubbish to be but it seemed to be helping my wound.
I held up the newly retrieved key as I proudly showed it off.
“It was trapped in a glass ball. I had to smash it.”
“Is that what the loud smashing was?” Caroline asked. Before I could even answer, Allie ran past us, running for her life.
“Scatter!” She yelled. We all froze like statues in the tall grass. As we looked around, large footsteps came closer. But they weren’t light steps like Lin and Caroline’s, they were huge, intimidating, stomps. In that moment, we did just as Allie instructed us to do; we scattered.

How could I be so stupid? I saw a possum run past me and of course, I screamed. It was way louder than that glass shattering sound that came from the barn. It was an instant “Allie is over her” alert for whatever that “Thing” is. I started sprinting in the other direction. But yet again, that was a bad decision. “It” happened to be coming this way and I basically just ran into it. “It” froze and looked at me for a moment like it was thinking about what move to make next. I couldn’t tell what “It” was doing. But then, the cryptic shadow ran towards me at full speed. I twisted around and started dashing. I was fast, but that “Thing” was just as fast. If not, faster. “It” was catching up with me very quickly. I had to warn the others. Maybe they could help be a distraction. My legs grew weak and tired but it was impossible for me to stop. I came across some of the tall grass that seemed to move to a breathing pattern. I continued to run until I saw that it was Lin and David. They were there with another girl, too. She must be new. I had to warn them that “It” was close.
“Scatter!” I yelled to them. I then continued to pick up the pace back up. I have to help others otherwise they won’t help me. We need those keys to get out of here and that means working together.
I think that I lost it. I didn’t hear anything and the coast seemed to be clear. But I was right next to the barn so I hopped in and locked the doors just to be safe. For some reason, the floorboards were pulled up with a small silver box near it. Maybe someone found a key?
After catching my breath, I came to a realization. That “Thing” wouldn’t just give up on chasing me. It was so close that it had no reason to. That could only mean one thing, there was a distraction. Maybe Lin and David distracted it. Or that new girl. Maybe even Max. He had been quietly at work putting the keys into the correct lock as the rest of us looked for the keys. There are only 8 keys to find but there are about 50 different locks. It’s Max’s job to find out where each key belongs.
As I reflected, I could hear a scream from farther away. It was completely silent after that. Whoever that was, they’re no longer here. But who exactly was it?

That scream was absolutely horrifying, worse than anything I’ve ever heard before. It’s not about the pain, it came from the depth of that emotion. It was much worse than mine when that “Thing” got me. Caroline was with me since she was confused and wanted to stay with someone. That means that it got either Allie, Lin, or Max. Considering the fact that Allie was being chased, I’m putting my bets on her.
“Caroline, let’s go to the gate and give the key I got from the barn to Max. Hopefully he’s still there. If not, we’ll do it ourselves.”
“David, wait. Who’s Max?” She asked.
“He finds the proper lock for the keys.” I understand Carolin’s confusion. I was the same way when I first got her. If we’[re being honest, I’m still confused. We don;t know for sure, but we think that the first person to get her was Lin, then Max, myself, Allie, and Caroline. But there’s no way to know the timeline for sure.
When we got to the gate, Max was still there.
“We got another key.” I told him.
“Great. Let me see it.” Max looks at Caroline and goes to open his mouth. He then closes it and proceeds to find the proper lock.
Just as I was about to go look for more keys with Caroline, I hear a voice from the bushes. I guess that this would tell us the fate of Allie and Lin.
“Guys? Are you over here?” The voice asked.
“Yeah, don’t worry, “It’s” not over here.” Max reassured. Allie’s grey boot came peering out of the bush as she walked over to us.
“Max, David, Caroline and … Lin?” Allie expressed pure confusion on her face as she looked around. I’m shocked. I can’t believe that Lin is gone. She was the best member that we had. I reached for my stomach that still had her sweater tied around it. She gave me here safely so that I could thrive. I have to get out of here, to prove to her, the group, and myself that I can do this.

I didn’t know Lin for long but she helped me when I was I had no idea what to do. I can’t thank her enough for that. I’ve been very quiet and I think that that’s my one regret. I didn’t get to tell her how thankful I was. And now, I’ll never get to.
The grass started to crunch as if something was coming towards us. Maybe Lin was alive? But everyone else started in the same direction with fear in their eyes. It could only be one thing and one thing only. I was too afraid to look. I haven’t seen it before and I really don’t want to. If I want to get out of here, I have to look. I look and then run. That’s the plan I’m sticking with at the moment. I spin around to face my fear. I just have no idea what to expect. But then, in that very moment, I couldn’t tell what I was looking at. I couldn’t tell if it was human or not. Then, it came closer. It’s. Not. Human.