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PROLOGUE

Shadows Of The Stars

By ChloePublished 5 months ago 9 min read
PROLOGUE
Photo by Bartek Garbowicz on Unsplash

“Three will rise, and three will fall, a sacrifice to please the stars.”

The rustle of the bus’s wheels groans beneath him. Abruptly the rumble and rev of the engine cuts into his thoughts, and he stops absently fiddling with his backpack straps, drawn back to the current moment.

School has been canceled for the day. He remembers the announcement, uncalled for, that rang through the intercom, dismissing all students and staff for the entire rest of the week. The classmates that had surrounded him, chattering in their plastic chairs, had all stood up and cheered, happy to have a relief from their sixth-grade quandaries.

But the announcement had made no difference for him. He’d felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as the principal’s uncertain tone predicted a possibility of two or perhaps three weeks with no school. The classroom around him erupted in shouting, but all he could do was shrivel in terror.

It was because of the Shadows.

They had been spewing out bouts of horrific information and gruesome stories for the past several days, and as much as his teachers tried to hide their discomfort, he could see it clearly in their eyes. The whole world had felt the tension crackling in the air until that very day, when the Shadows put out a final post, spoken in every language for all the earth to see, that they were going to invade today.

He knows that’s the real reason why his school has predicted a cancellation. Because when this is all over, there won’t be any more teachers. There won’t be any more students. There’ll hardly be anyone left awake, if what the Shadows say is true.

And they have done everything they said they were going to do, so why wouldn’t they do this?

The bus bounces over a small bump in the road, and he jerks upward in his seat, staring out the window with wide eyes.

“When will it happen?” he mutters to himself. “Where are you now?” He gazes out the window, amber eyes wide as saucers. But the highway only speeds past, giving him no answer, and he sinks deeper into his seat, trying to calm himself down with long, slow breaths.

“Everything will be OK. Everything will be fine…”

Without warning, the bus erupts in shouts and shrieks. Immediately he looks around at his classmates, searching for the signs of the Shadows that the newsmen have warned him about– glowing eyes or dark mist– but all of them are staring out the windows in shock, too stunned to make a sound. He follows their gaze out onto the road, straining to see what they see.

Suddenly a cold, clawed hand grasps his wrist. The bus veers to the right, slamming him back against the window, and the world topples over as a car speeds into the school bus. Everything spins and tumbles. For a heartbeat, he can still hear the shouting of the others and the swerving of the car, but then all goes silent, and finally still.

His eyes take a moment to adjust to the image. Something red and sticky has plastered the floor, and the seats are now on the roof. Blinking, dazed, Owain struggles to sit up, his mind reeling. Around him the bus has flipped onto its roof, his backpack has fallen onto his side, and shattered glass crowds the ground. Slowly regaining his senses, he stares around in shock and fear, a shudder passing through him.

Blood is pooling.

“Hello.”

Owain gasps, the air escaping him in one terrifying moment. He realizes a second too late that the cold hand wrapped around his wrist has not moved since the bus flipped and staggered to the ditch by the roadside. He squiggles and squirms, feeling a weight pushing down on his back, and is pushed to the ground, horror gripping him from all sides.

The clawed hand is joined by a second hand. He is lifted from the ground and set up against the wall, one of the few windows that hasn’t been shattered. Cold breath billows into his face, casting chills straight up his spine. Two narrowed eyes stare into his soul in the body of a black, silky-looking creature. Curved horns stick out a few inches above its head. It gazes at him unblinkingly.

He swallows.

It’s a Shadow.

It chuckles– a soft, airy sound. Its voice is no louder than a whisper, yet right in his ears. “Why so afraid, child? I wouldn’t dare hurt you.”

His breath catches in his chest. Why shouldn’t he be afraid? These creatures have been murdering civilians in cold blood and taking their children away out of pure spite. And today, they said they were planning on unleashing themselves upon the world and putting every person–

“–To sleep?” The Shadow leans toward him, its breath smelling of blood and a freezing, watery smell that he can’t make out. Its sharpened teeth glimmer in the rays of weak sunlight streaming through the windows as it smiles at him. “Not you. Not yet.”

Owain finds his voice, no more than a squeak. “Why not?”

Another dark shape pops out from behind the first Shadow. This one has eyes of viridescent, shimmering green, like the look of a stream splashing over bright pebbles. Its horns are short and stubby sticks, looking more like mock ears than threatening antlers. “You must decide,” it says.

He looks between the first Shadow and the green-eyed Shadow, wondering what to say. What must he decide? What is so important that Shadows would come to his side to decide for it? And… how come all the cars have crashed?

Breaking his gaze from the bigger Shadow, he catches a glimpse of the land outside the innards of the bus. Cars are scattered around in the ditch, flipped sideways or upside down, their windshields cracked and busted, their doors flung wide open. Squinting, he can just make out the shapes of slithering Shadows and petrified citizens trapped inside the cars, but before he can understand more about the situation a hand drags his sight away from the window and turns his attention back towards the two Shadows.

The bigger of the two gives him a baleful stare, as if urging him not to discover some large secret. “No need to look back. Everything that has happened has been planned.”

“Planned?” he mutters to himself. One glance back at the blood that has been pooling along the floor of the bus makes him shiver. This certainly doesn’t look planned. This all seems so… spontaneous.

“You must decide,” says the Shadow, grinning. “You must decide between becoming a Shadow, or falling to rest for eternity.”

The ground seems to give way beneath him. Everything in his body sinks, frighteningly alarmed. The Shadows are giving him– and everyone else, he presumes– a choice between going through the painful, agonizing process to become one of them, or being put under sleep for the rest of whatever life he has left to live. But it isn’t much of a choice, is it. He has no choice. What is the real choice between becoming a dark, bloodthirsty monster and falling into eternal darkness? They seem the same.

He narrows his eyes at the two Shadows. A thought strikes him across the face before he can respond to their query.

These two were once children.

Shadows were once children. All Shadows were once children, by that fact. It only makes the decision more set-in in his mind.

I’ll never become a Shadow. He shrivels at the thought of agreeing to turn himself into one of these wispy, treacherous beings. How could a child– his very own schoolmates, even– become one of them?

The larger Shadow reaches out to touch him again and he shrinks away from the hand, backing himself up against the window. The sounds of other Shadow voices, barely audible, rise to his ears as he hears his fellow classmates going through the same decision as him. Surely they won’t want to become Shadows! How will he ever tell them apart?

I won’t, he thinks suddenly, shifting nervously. I’ll either lose all my sense and become one of them or I just won’t see them again.

The whimpers and whines of terrified children reach him, and then, after a few moments of more whispering, sighs of content and relief.

What? He’s baffled, and he wants to see what has happened to the others, but the two Shadows block his view before he gets a good look.

“Come on now,” says the bigger one, leaning in close. He pushes himself up against the wall. “It isn’t that hard. Choose what you like, human.”

Owain does his best to glare at the Shadow, but its eyes are too hypnotic, too mesmerizing, and all he does is end up staring straight at it, unable to tear his gaze away.

“How come he doesn’t like us, Feer?” asks the green-eyed Shadow, tilting its head towards the larger one.

Feer shrugs its shoulders. Its eyes flash, but it does not look away from Owain, keeping him locked in the trance. “I don’t know, Fi,” it murmurs softly. “I don’t think he quite understands what it’s like to be a Shadow.”

Finally, after several long moments, he wrenches his gaze from Feer’s eyes. The contented sighs that had flown around him earlier have now faded, giving way to an eerie, tasteless silence. Between the flow of the Shadows, he catches sight of his classmates, his friends, pinned to the wall or the ceiling or the ground, spattered with the blood from the crash. More Shadows, all fading at the edges and opaquely black, are working over their unconscious figures, sticking a black, slimy substance that holds them in place. He feels fear rush over him at the sight of his only friends being hoisted away into eternal blackness, gone forever to the realm of deep, undisturbed sleep.

Feer sets a hand on his chest and pushes him to the floor, gently but forcefully. “You seem afraid,” he murmurs, leaning forward. His cold breath grazes Owain’s cheek. “Do you want us to make the decision for you?”

Owain finds what little strength he has left and shakes his head. “I don’t want to be one of you,” he hisses under his breath. “I’ll never want to.” In the presence of so many Shadows, saying such a thing makes him feel defiant.

Fi blinks at him sympathetically, but Feer shows no noticeable reaction to his decision. “Lovely,” the Shadow breathes out, reaching forward and setting Owain back against the window. “Hold very still. This might hurt just… a bit.”

Almost at once, a cold pang of pain strikes him in the chest. He fights the urge to writhe against it, remembering the words of Feer, and not wanting any part of this could go wrong. For all he knows, his life is now in the hands of these two Shadows, and one wrong move could send him spiraling to his death.

Darkness sweeps over his vision like a wing’s shadow over water. Owain whimpers, terrified of having lost his sight for possibly all of eternity. Fi’s hands work quickly to restrain him against the wall using some adhesive, chilled substance., and he feels Feer’s breath close by his ears. His own breaths now come in quick, horrified gasps.

Is this really what I want? Is this how I’m going to spend the rest of my life? Trapped in an endless blackness, unable to move, asleep for all his days?

Anything’s better than becoming one of them, he reasons. Anything at all.

The stabbing pain dissipates, gone from his aching chest. Instead of feeling cold, the air around him swarms with warmth– sleepy, encompassing warmth that encloses him on all sides. His staggered breathing begins to slow as he breathes it in.

“There we are.” Feer’s whisper echoes around in his mind. Besides the lazy beating of his own heart, it is the only thing he can hear. “I think you’re going to enjoy this very much.”

The boy stiffens. Fear creeps its way back into his consciousness, pricking his heart with nervous hands. What’s going to happen to me? What’s going to happen to all my friends? What about my parents? What about…

“Why do you worry?” Underneath the embrace of comforting warmth, Owain feels Feer place his hand on his chest. “Just relax…”

The darkness around him becomes stronger, thicker, fuller. The sound of Feer’s breath in his ear begins to fade, gradually fizzling out to utter silence. Blackness enfolds over him like a cape, pushing him deeper, deeper, and deeper still, until his mind is rid of all thoughts.

Emptiness.

Pure, unbroken emptiness.

Owain has fallen asleep, and now his destiny has changed forever.

***

A/N: Because of the response from the community, I have decided to begin posting the finished chapters of SOFS for Vocal to review and pore over, one chapter a day. Thank you and be sure to leave some feedback!

Science FictionYoung AdultThrillerPrologueHorrorFictionFantasyDystopianAdventure

About the Creator

Chloe

she’s back.

a prodigious writer at 14, she has just completed a 100,000+ word book and is looking for publishers.

super opinionated.

writes free-verse about annoying people.

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Comments (1)

  • Kendall Defoe 5 months ago

    'kay, I'm glad I'm reading this in the daylight (and that I put my Stephen King novels away). You have a real talent and I am very excited to see where you head next! ;)

ChloeWritten by Chloe

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